Experiencing ‘Thin places’ As The Ancients Did

20200617 EXPERIENCING THIN PLACES

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

What Is A Thin Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

― Juan Ramón Jiménez

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

How To Increase Awareness

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

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

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

 

Poem

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Drws I Fyd Arall (Revisited): The Voice

20190121 drws i fyd arall revisited the voice poem

The Voice. Since the dawn of time humankind has heard that inner voice. Many tribes of old, the Ancients, Druids, Celts, The Ancient Texts testify to the Voice in the desert or wilderness places, or atop mountains.

There is a clearing in the woods behind my garden in Capel Curig in Wales, where, as a wee lad, my friends and I would play. It was almost as if there was something, or someone that was drawing us to that place. In that clearing there were two bowed, arched, silver birch trees.

My friends and I, then as children, loved sci-fi programs on our old black and white televisions, back then, and so, playfully, we called those two arched trees, Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’). It means ‘door to another world’. And we would run back and forth through the arch, laughing, and giggling and let our imaginations run riot as to where we might have been transported, as if we were in a sci-fi tv program.

With hindsight I think something or someone, the genii loci, the Presence, the Source had prompted us to call it that. The trees are still there, and it is still a special place.

I am back at that place again, and it’s cold, dark, late. And it’s wonderful. The Presence here. A benevolent one. This is, indeed, a ‘thin place’ – where Here and The Other meet.

As I stand here now, memories of yesteryear flood my mind. Wonderful thoughts, great memories, powerful recollections abound.

One night, about three years ago, I woke up from a shallow sleep and went for a walk to this place, and this is what I wrote:

A warm feeling enveloped me. Palpable. And not only an external feeling, but internal too, pervading my whole being. And then, as has happened albeit infrequently in this place in the past, I heard the Voice once again. Some will say that it’s only imagination, but I can only say, to me, it was and is, more, oh much more.

From an interrupted, shallow sleep I awoke early,
and walked into the night, as if called by a Voice deep within.

The Voice?
An elemental? An ancestor? My imagination? The Bat kohl?

The air was cold and damp,
the darkness seemed to envelope me,
the trees ‘closed in’, and all was quiet.

Nothing stirred.
Nothing at all.
And with some trepidation,
into a forest clearing I slowly strode.

A fallen tree provided a seat,
and I sat, and waited.

The air felt ‘electric’ as though something would happen,
like a ‘silent storm’ approaching.

And I waited. And shivered.
Waited. And got damp.
Waited.

And then from within, or without,
almost undetectable, a quiet, loving, voice was heard.

The Voice.
Slowly, unhurriedly, powerfully, the Voice said:

“As above, so below,
there are things you should know.”

“Human words are powerful, they are a door,
your actions are effective, they are pure metaphor.”

“And so I speak of humanity’s cosmic task,
To be revealed, evidenced, enjoyed, without any mask.”

“And so, don’t just sit, but take heed and do,
these are worded-actions-prayers for many, and for you.”

“And so, again I say, as above, so below,
remember these things; they are things you should know.”

“Through prayer, does that which is unseen, unmanifest,
reveal itself and take form in the blessed.”

“And so, I mention,
with your hands at your side, walk humbly,
take seven half-steps forward, its a journey of intention.”

“And now, raise your hands in simple ‘surrender’,
and point both to Heaven, that domain of awesome splendour.”

“Widen your arms, and so scoop, and harvest
pure energy, pure ‘gold’, and be prepared to be feel blessed.”

“Draw in that power, by folding your arms like an ‘x’ on your chest,
and feel its benefits, its warmth; you’re at peace, at one, ‘at home’, at rest.”

“Then stretch forth your arms, and mould with your hands
as if a ball, that ‘globe-like’ power-blessing from the ouranic meadowlands.”

“With one foot leading, and with knees part bent,
sway back and forth, in preparation for that ‘goodness’ to be sent.”

“In your mind, name the loved-one, the recipient, the friend,
and in your heart, see them, imagine them, to that end.”

“‘Push’ with your hands, that power-blessing from you to them,
and sigh the sound of the ages, the ‘so be it’, the ‘amen’.”

“And then, your hands drop to your side,
power has gone out; but there is no lack,
for the power-blessing that went forth, also comes back,
in another way and at another time, and so you, too, are blessed.”

Having done everything as directed,
I stood there in awe.
The air was cold and yet I felt warm,
the night so dark but in my mind’s eye it seemed to glow.

The Voice had gone.
The Voice? An angel? The Deity? The Awen?

You decide.

I do believe The Voice speaks wisdom to us all. I don’t think we need to go to special places – though sometimes that seems to be something that we, as humans, need to do to prompt us, to jog our memories or put us in the right frame of mind of openness. But, I do believe The Voice speaks still, perhaps in the city. Can you hear it?