Time And The Realm(s) Beyond: A Celtic/Druidic View Of Conflation

time a conflation

It’s January and I’m back at Capel Curig, north Wales, where my late grandmother’s cottage is situated. When I left the cottage the sun was just going down. Now it’s twilight, that ‘magical’ time when anything can happen. I’m walking deep into the forest, here.

We live in a world governed by time. To get to work, meet a family member, even to go shopping we schedule and mark such events by time, and see it as consecutive and linear. That idea seems to suit the way we perceive time for out twentieth century events. Time seems to ‘fit’ well around our human-centric activities.

A few minutes later, as I look up I see the wispy, crepuscular clouds, high above me, just losing their sunlit glow. And, then darkness closes in, fast, and the forest trees around me lose their three-dimensional setting, and ‘distance’ seems to be no more, as trees just look like dark brown paper cut-outs, ‘flat’ in the near distance.

Some may be thinking that it isn’t our activities that shape our view of time, but that time shapes us and affects us, but we’re not aware of it.

Current view: time is ever-advancing, continual and consecutive.

There was once an idea in astronomy that time continued in a straight, ever-advancing fashion until the expanding universe reached the point where it could expand no more, and then it would contract. At that moment, time itself would start to go in reverse (but anyone experiencing that reversal wouldn’t be aware of it). If that was happening now, you and I wouldn’t be aware of it. It would appear normal. Affected by ‘backward-running’ time, but unaware.

Current view: the sequence of events, linear time-wise, is necessary to tell a story or record events. Many admit that as things seems to repeat themselves that time is circular and not linear. Perhaps, it’s both. Things do seem to repeat themselves, but as the weeks and years advance, they do so with minor variations. Perhaps, it is both, and that time is, infact, the shape of a ‘slinky’ toy.

Walking on for half an hour or so I’m at an area where, as children, my friends and I played. Even now this place, Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) as we called it provokes fond memories and a current air of mystery. Drws i fyd arall was our childhood name for two ‘fused’ and arching trees in this clearing – Drws i fyd arall means ‘door to another world’ and was so named as our childhood imaginations ran riot. Was it just our imaginations that gave these trees their name, or was it these trees and this ‘magical’ area that ‘spoke’ to us and prompted us to describe it so?

Playing as a child with my friends here, happened some fifty-five years ago, but it doesn’t seem as though time has moved on. Logical, scientifically and empirically time has moved on, though. Experientially, and now as I stand before these two trees, my feeling, my intuition tells me otherwise. I believe the ancients, those Celts, Druids, Pagans and others would have held the latter, experiential, timeless view.

The ancient Greeks had two main terms for time: chronos and kairos. To them, Chronos was quantitative, and was time that measured hours and minutes. Think, ‘tick tock’. Their other word for time, kairos. Kairos is time, but it is qualitative. Think, ‘timely opportunity’.

At Drws i fyd arall was I experiencing both chronos and kairos, but ‘majoring’ and receptive to Kairos? There is part of me that baulks at the idea of describing peak experiences in that way, especially as I’m not a dualist, but a unitive thinker, and especially as those divisions are born out of ‘scientific’ thinking without trying to perceive things from those other time-less realms.

At Drws i fyd arall those distinctions didn’t matter. Me, and you if you were here, like our Celtic, Druid, and Pagan ancestors would, I think, have been immersed in the moment – having entered sacred space/sacred time. Outside of strict definitions of chrono or Kairos.

I sat down, looking at the two trees arching over, and in the almost-complete darkness, my eyelids beginning to half-close and it seemed the darkness began to play tricks, as I saw sparks and strands of light, flashes, that appeared and disappeared. One moment, there (and perhaps in my mind’s eye) was a scene of me with my friends when we were all about six years old (including sound), then another scene appeared of me as an older teenager, and then another set of images appeared, as if in front of me, of my friends and I aged about ten (when one of them fell out of a tree). And, so it went on. Seemingly, time-disjointed events, apparently  at random.

It was a few weeks later, recounting this incident, that I realised that if the author of these images were fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, then they may not teach in out twentieth century, linear, way. Why should they? They inhabit different realms, have different priorities, and perceive time in a different way.

Not all cultures in the world write from left to right, not all the books in the Hebrew part of the Book are in chronological order (but are in order of size), and some cultures never used the zero in maths or counted in base ten numerals (as some got to 8, and that was it. Our nine would be written as 11). Why then, should those we encounter from other realms not communicate and do things differently.

The three main scenes that appeared before me, upon reflection, seemed to be a group of my very young friends and I playing together, wonderfully oblivious to anything around us, but in community. The second scene showed me, alone, deep in thought and appreciating nature, and appreciating actions and consequences. The final scene was back, nearer in time to the first scene (but a few years on) and showed my friends concern (and mine) for a friends who had falled from a tree, and being concerned about him, and being concerned about the tree (though I suspect it was a concern that a branch we used to swing from was unusable now).

As an adult, if I re-arranged those scenes into chronological order then it would appear as disjointed stories, just lovely memories, and nothing more. In keeping the scenes in the way they were presented – ‘crazy timing’ from our point of view – they did, indeed, made sense, and delivered a ‘message’. Perhaps, something like this: initially we all might have be concerned about our group, ourselves or our community, and only look to our own group interests. Then we grow and look outward to the needs of others. And, third, the scene showed a ‘marrying’ together of community, outward concern and maturity, and bringing the two into harmony: perfect balance.

I left that clearing, somewhat confused then, but ‘unpacked’ the images and sequences, and they made sense – an otherworldly, ‘differently-timed’ sequence of events, but they contained a deep and profound meaning, all the more potent because I had to strip away twentieth linear-time understanding, and surrender to the moment.

Could it be, that for the author of these images, fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, time is perceived, as they communicate to us, in order of importance rather than chronological order? I think so. It’s for the same reason that dreams seem odd in that they usually don’t follow  sequential time, from our point of view, but appear random – or, perhaps are cast that way so that an overall message is conveyed rather than just a memory of events, as one might see on a holiday. The latter being great memories but rarely containing a profound meaning of other-worldly important. Time, then for them, would be conflated.

Jarod Kintz wrote: I had a dream about you. We were racing to be the slowest person on earth. You were winning which meant you were losing. You were gloating because you were a winner and I was taunting because you were a loser.

It is one thing to accept this conflation of other-worldly time and see it as different to linear time, it is another thing to, sometimes, to surrender to it and experience. There are sometimes, when the encounter is so ‘abrupt’ that we’re living that ‘nowness’ of time as we experience numinous events even before our cerebral faculties are aware (and that brings us back to dream encounters, where much of our logical cerebral brain cells are ‘asleep’).

In closing, I’ve learned to accept what these peak experiences give us, in the order they produce the event, as the sequence is as important as the contents, and may indeed, contain greater truths they want to convey. Think of those movies, where, after just a few minutes into the action, a subtitle appears and says something like ‘Fifteen years earlier’. Yes, the story is important, but the sequence – even if not following chronological order – adds to the message being conveyed. What do you think?

 

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’, and be blessed.

House Blessing Ritual: Lockdown ‘How To’ Special

HOUSE BLESSING LOCKDOWN

Is it really four years ago since Gruffyd and Megan moved into their first bought-together house.? It is. They wanted me to lead a house blessing ritual, and four years later, they are about to move again. No firm date has been fixed – and who knows what lockdown rules will be – but moving they are this autumn, and I’ll have the privilege of leading their new house blessing ritual.

What follows, then is a lockdown, outline on a house-blessing that you can also use to bless your home. All very spiritual, Celtic, Druidic etc. You’ll notice that they blessings are all very ‘down to earth’. Those who have gone before us, from ages past, blessed the grand and the minutiae of life, both the fountain and the faucet. So, enjoy.

Then, they wanted a quiet ceremony, a private one, and one that was short, and semi-formal, having already worked with them prior to this, to explain how we could bless each room in turn etc, and whether they wanted to recite some of the prayers and responses.

I can remember the occassion well.

I arrived at 10am that morning. As agreed, I wore my white alb and black scapular, and had with me three dorchau pen (Welsh for ‘head wreaths’, of the green fern and other green-leaf sort), one for each of us. It’s what Gruffyd and Megan wanted, and I do so love ritual and liturgy when done in a deep, reverential manner, focussed on the One.

I led Gruffyd and Megan around their house, with me blessing each room and them responding liturgically. In each place water was sprinkled as a symbol of blessing after each prayer, and sometimes (as is tradition in these parts) salt.

You might like to use (and adapt, as necessary) some of the prayers used. Some like to ‘re-bless’ their house annually as a way of re-dedicating the space, and so invite me to do that, but you could do this, too, in your home, if you wanted, now and annually.

And, so at Gruffyd and Megan’s home, with a clear blue sky and with the brilliant sun shining down, a slight and refreshing breeze coming off the southerly mountains and warming the rugged landscape, and with Welsh bird-song filling the air, we all stood at the open door:

I spoke a blessing at the front door and hall:

Blessed are you, Welcoming Source.
At this front door and hall, may those who come and go from this door,
know you as the constant Companion on the way.
Coming and going may
they may be sustained by your presence.

Bring to this door both friend and stranger,
those who come in peace,
and guard this place from any who come with hostility in their heart.
May every grudge or malice be left on the doormat,
and may those who brought them leave them there,
and, when leaving, may they forget to collect them. Amen

We then moved into the living room/dining room, and I prayed:

Blessed are you, Inclusive One,
for you have established this room
for the purpose of relaxation and the enjoyment of company.
May your blessing fall gently upon all who share this room.
May all who gather here
be knit together in kinship on earth,
and find, as a foretaste, a glimpse,
of the communion of your saints in heaven. Amen

Then we moved into the kitchen. I prayed:

Blessed are you, Provider of Plenty, and of Grace.
You supply our every need
from the store-house of your great riches.
May this kitchen always be filled
with food in abundance.
And may the preparations here
be filled with joy and love.
Bless the hands that work in this place,
and bless those who eat what is prepared here. Amen

And, then in the bathroom, I prayed:

Blessed are you, Fountain of pure water.
You made us as whole persons
— bodies, minds and spirit —
and you called us good.
May this place be a place to
keep our bodies clean and healthy,
a place to feel refreshed, and wash
away all that clings to us, unnecessarily. Amen

And, then on into the two bedrooms. In each, I prayed:

Blessed are you, Night-Singer, providing shelter and protection,
for you are the true rest of all people.
May you cover each person
with your gentle hands, and
may an angel reside here with protective wings outstretched.
Bless those who sleep here
with hours of rest and refreshment,
that in sleeping they might rest in peace,
and upon waking they may rise to serve you and others
in their daily life. Amen

And, finally we moved into the garden, where I said:

Blessed are you, Verdant Greening of All Creativity.
We gather together to ask your blessing on this garden,
what is grown here and the way it provides enjoyment, relaxation and beauty. Amen

We moved back into the house, where as arranged Gruffyd and Megan read a blessing from the Carmina Gadelica:

God bless the house,
From site to stay,
From beam to wall,
From end to end,
From ridge to basement,
From balk to roof-tree,
From found to summit,
Found and summit. Amen.

There followed a great lunch, great fellowship, and lots of photographs – family and friends can see these on Gruffyd and Megan’s FaceBook site.

You might like to adapt the abovementioned for your house-blessing, or by all mean contact me if you live within the UK.

 

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The Story Of The Blackthorn Tree: A Lesson In Respecting Nature

BLACKTHORN TREE

The grandfather clock ticked loudly in the hallway, and every quarter of an hour there would be a loud thud, and a few seconds later it would chime. The kitchen, a place chosen by my grandmother in all the cottage, was  where she spent most of her time, in her rocking chair, near an open hearth – it’s what country folk in this rugged part of north Wales did.

Now, This is some years back, and I was probably just wee lad of about five years of age.

A storm was raging outside – valley weather can change suddenly and be most severe, and being a young boy I couldn’t help but look out at the window. Rain lashed against the window panes, wind blew the trees about outside, especially the large one at the end of my grandmother’s garden, and thunder and lighting raged across the sky, intermittently. But, I was fairly warm and comfortable – as snug as a bug in a rug.

‘What type of tree is that, at the end of your garden?’, I asked my grandmother, still looking intently out of the window.

‘If you come here’, she said, ‘I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you a little story about it, too’, she replied. My grandmother was a prolific story-teller, a seanchai, and everyone in the family loved her deep and profound stories.

I could never resist a good story, either, and still can’t, and so I stopped peering out of the window, ambled to the foot of her rocking chair, and sat on the floor – the floor consisted of paving stones in the kitchen, but warmed by the heat from the open fire. I was even more comfortably warm, in complete contrast to the coolness near the window and the storm outside.

She said, ‘In nature, everything is in equilibrium, in balance. Sometimes the weather is sunny and dry; sometimes it is cold and thundery, like now. Everything balances out.

In nature everything should be respected, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because life on this planet depends on it, even you and I. And that tree, the one you asked about, is a noble blackthorn tree.

Now the blackthorn tree is a canny tree. It produces lovely flowers and awesome berries, that I sometimes boil, but it demands respect, and you never want to touch it carelessly. It has two inch long spikey protrusions on it, like needles. Some of the farmers here use them as cattle-proof hedges.’

She moved her head closer to me, momentarily, and in a hushed voice, asked, ‘Would you like to know a secret story about the blackthorn tree’. She knew I couldn’t resist a good story, and so I nodded eagerly, and as the hallway clock juddered and chimed once more, she continued.

‘There was once a farmer, who really didn’t care about the land he farmed. He was just in it for the money, and he was never satisfied. He was always looking for ways to get more and more out of the land, to get richer and richer. He noticed that in the middle of his field stood a lonely, but very large blackthorn tree. It had been there since before he was born. It was a noble, majestic specimen, and a very fine and proud tree, too.

The locals used to believe that the Lunantisidhe, moon-fae, used to live in blackthorn trees or used to live nearby them and looked after them. They are good creatures, but it would never do to upset them. Also, some people believe that the Cailleach, that old crone that you’ve probably heard outside on occasions, carries a staff made of a blackthorn branch. – and with it she can summon up a storm. Perhaps , like the one outside?’.

I quickly looked toward the widow and back. It’s true I had heard the Cailleach several times, but also remembered that my grandmother always said that there was nothing to fear from her, if you gave her due respect.

My grandmother continued, ‘That money-mad farmer was insistent that that blackthorn tree had to be felled, and that would give him more land to farm, more crops, and more money. He asked for help, but not one of the locals would help him chop the tree down. They knew the farmer didn’t really respect the land, was besotted with money, and they knew the myth of the blackthorn tree and the very protective Lunantisidhe, or moon-fae.

The farmer grew angry with them, and the next morning, as the sun came up, he took an axe to the tree. It took him hours and hours, and as his axe cut into the tree, so it looked like blood was coming out of the blackthorn tree. Certainly, the farmer’s arm was bloodied, as some of the long thorns from the tree scratched and dug into his arm.

Once the tree was felled, the greedy farmer stood back, sweating and with sore, aching muscles cursed the tree for the work it had caused him.

He turned around. His jaw dropped and his heart raced. His farm house was ablaze. And being made of wood and with a thatched roof there was no way of saving it. His house was completely destroyed. And, as the timber burnt and cracked, and crackled, and flames leapt into the air, in the breeze whispers could be heard to those that had ears to hear. It was the angry voices of the Lunantisidhe who had sought revenge, by balancing nature. The tree had lost its life at the hands of the greedy farmer; the farmer had lost his home. All because he did not respect nature, the blackthorn tree or the Lunantsidhe.’

She finished the story, and I couldn’t resist going back to the window, to gaze outside at that storm and that noble blackthorn tree standing at the end of her garden. If I listened hard enough would I hear the Lunantisidhe?

Now, I’m much older. But, in that story of myth and magic, and told many years ago, is there a moral there for us as individuals and as a society when it comes to appreciating and protecting nature?

 

Arianrhod: Full Moon Poem. And Your Full Moon Ceremony Invite

full moon ceremony may 2020

The moon by many ancient tribes and faiths of yesterday personified the moon, and for many this continues today –  latter-day Celts and Druids, and others, as well as writers, poets, and romantics. In Wales she was, and is. known as Arianrhod (meaning silver wheel).

And, with the next full moon this Thursday, 7 May 2020, below is a poem to celebrate the event.

There will also be a Full Moon Ceremony ‘broadcasted at 7.30pm (UK time) this Thursday,  ‘on my Facebook site, here, and you’re invited! That link will take you to my FaceBook site, and if you can see many previous recorded broadcasts then you know you’re set for the Full Moon Ceremony. If you only see a brief outline and little or no recorded broadcasts you will probably need to press the ‘friends’ link button (from my Facebook site. I’ll accept the next time I’m online and then you should be able to view and/or participate at home, ready for the upcoming Ceremony. A printable ceremony outline will appear within a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the poem about the moon, penned by me a few years ago.

Arianrhod in all her splendour, moves by an invisible hand
and wanders companionless, like a silver wheel in the sky. She ascends.
This full moon’s lucid beam dominates the now darkened canopy, and
there, in her smiling face, we find sweet, unbridled understanding.
She befriends.

Her ‘lesser light’ moves across the sky above the city, grey.
Oh, robed in splendour, her surge of silver-light fills every window pane
and skips across rooftops, trees, streams, fairy fires, and silent railway,
and falls unbeknown on those who sleep now, and refreshment regain.
A blessing.

Arianrhod, spill your beauty on a thousand Earthly races,
on happy flowers that bloom in a myriad of hues,
on laughing, smiling, sad and all up-looked faces,
who, in wilding spaces, drink your wine of sweet, bless’d fallen dew.
A gracious infilling.

And paled now is her light,
as onward she moves lower in the sky. For the sun, opportune.
But, for now, dear Arianrhod reigns with love. She is mistress of the night.
A timely witness sent by the Truth who is beyond the Moon.
A glorious remembrance.

 

Bright blessings to you and yours during these difficult, ‘lockdown’ days, Tadhg

[Note: The moon photo, above, is copyrighted by Pennie Ley, and used with kind permission. Gratitude to Pennie [Link]]

 

The Heroes Journey For You & I: Return To Innocence

THE HEROES JOURNEY RETURN TO INNOCENCE

Many will know that I love to return to the wilderness, and especially to the wilds of north Wales periodically.

What is it that calls out to me?

One can only be in awe of the grandeur of the Welsh landscape, the rugged environment, the grey-green of the slate-grass, the heaven-ascending mountains, fresh valley streams, and wet, ragged sheep ambling this way and that, near Capel Curig. The call of the ancients still echoes on the mountains and in the valleys, here, and I must respond.

We are all on a journey , a heroes journey, and sometimes to advance on that twisting, unpredictable adventure of life we need to retrace our steps. We need to revisit those places of the past, and perhaps see them anew for the first time. Like a pole vaulter preparing for the high jump, he or she needs to pace backwards before starting the fast run to propel them over the bar.

‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’ John Muir

I’m back. I’m back at Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’), two trees in a forest clearing named by my friends and I when we were wee lads and lasses, and we imagined the two arched-together silver birch trees was a doorway to another place. And, those Welsh words aptly mean ‘door to another world’.

Such is the imagination of children.

Back in this place it seems to me that there is a circularity to each of our lives. As I look at those two leaning-together trees, forming an arched ‘door’, there is a remembrance that is unchanging, and yet something has changed.  We can return to the beginning and learn, partly because our  circumstances may have changed, partly because the world has changed, and partly because we have changed. Same places, new discoveries awaiting.  As I look at those two trees, they seem much, much smaller. It’s me. I’ve grown physically bigger.

‘The stuff of our lives doesn’t change. It’s we who change in relation to it.’ Molly Vass

Physically bigger and stronger than I was when I first encountered these trees as a child, there is deep down an ‘electric’ energy that seems to speak inwardly, now. Inaudibly I hear the words,  ‘Wait, for there is now more for you to know’. Doesn’t that apply to all of us? I  believe so. There is more, and if we pause in our busy schedules knowledge and wisdom will be revealed. Even in the mundane, places that we visit infrequently, places that we visit on a daily basis, in rural areas and in cities, the Voice speaks constantly, and if we still ourselves we will hear the Bat Kohl (the Daughter’s voice), the voice of the Source of All.

If, as a young lad, I believed that these two trees was a door to another realm, at least in my imagination, I don’t think I was far wrong. Now I have a greater understanding and more words to describe it. Now, I can comprehend deeper things, and yet know we all stand on the horizon of expectation and greater wisdom,  and are moving forward.

There are ‘doors’ set before each one of us – doors of opportunity that we might walk through easily, say, at work; doors of relationship and commitment that might take some work; doors of adventure, always. And, other ‘doors’ that present themselves in a myriad of forms, and at odd, awkward or unexpected times that are of a different. Drws i fyd arall is such a door. They are ‘doors’ which enter our daily life and take our breath away or speak deeply to us of that which is Beyond. Each encounter, each liminal or threshold experience is different, but you will recognise it as something deep and spiritual when it happens. The Causer of Deep Things will ensure you notice the encounter.

‘What you seek is seeking you.’ Rumi

It might require some effort to put ourselves in the way of such adventures,  if we feel the need. But, if the Source of All wants an encounter, then it will happen. The event’s production and occurrence isn’t up to us, thankfully. However, I do believe it is important to draw to one side, and that may mean pausing, or meditation in a forest or our even in living room, to pray in a group or singly, to recite some liturgy or perform a ritual so that we are attentive and accepting of them when they occur. Such activities are not for the benefit of the Source of All, nor to appease the Source (and why ever would we feel the need to do that?). No, pausing, meditation, prayer, liturgy and ritual are for our benefit.

Those two trees, Drws I fyd arall are in front of me, and as I sit on a felled log, I half-close my eyes and listen, inwardly. The forest sounds seem to ‘retract’ into the distance, and even though I can still feel the damp air on my skin it means less to me that it did. And, I wait. And listen. And wait.

’Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad.’ Ghalib

I can feel damp, dead leaves under my feet. The life of trees is circular. Leaves grow to catch sunlight for photosynthesis, and are discarded when the sun is low in the sky and the temperature  drops. Leaves then become an incumbrance to the tree. But, in shedding them, much needed nutrients are released by them into the soil as they rot, and are collected by the tree’s roots, and the tree benefits in other ways. And, the following spring, trees adorn themselves with leaves once more. The perfect economy of nature.

Behind me, I can hear the soporific sound of a babbling brook. I’d stepped across it an hour ago – and at this point in the forest it is less than one foot deep and not more than three feet wide.  It’s quite fast for it’s size, and it meanders through the forest without a care in the world – except to be a babbling brook, to flow, and to do what a babbling brook does. And, it moves exquisitely along its course.

’How can you follow the course of your life if you do not let it flow?’ Lao Tzu

And, as I relaxed and bask in the forest around me, high above I could hear birdsong. Sitting in the trees, I could pick  our several birds by their unique birdsong. It was beautiful.

Resting high above me, they sang songs of joy. ‘Our hearts are just small birds waiting’, wrote mark Nepo.

An hour later, I was back home. But, I just had to sit quietly and ‘unpack’ the encounter. Some encounters can take your breath away, metaphorically or physically knock you off your feet. Others are more subdued in effect, but nonetheless real. Do not let ego, or other people’s ego inform you that the subdued kind of encounter is of a lesser quality than theirs or of any other kind. An encounter, is an encounter, is an encounter.

What was the commonality between those three experiences of damp leaves, a babbling brook, and birds and birdsong? It may vary from person to person, and it may be that you have your own ideas. And, ofcourse, it could be that you are experiencing an encounter now in reading this, in which case do meditate deeply on the ‘message’ from Beyond, for you! Who is to say that in reading this you are not encountering?

For me, the ‘message’ was that trees do what trees do and there is a (circular) purpose to it; brooks do what brooks do and enjoy their meandering course through the forest, almost oblivious to everything else; and the birds in those ancient trees burst into joyful birdsong and are scattered, they fly away, when something ‘big’ takes place – a noise, a nearby predator etc. They wait until an opportune time.

Everything flows.

Everything has its place. Everything, including you and I have our place in the great cosmic dance of life, which is unending – it changes in many ways (just as we grow in stature etc), it is transformed, it moves (in unexpected ways), and it flows, and it is unending.

And now for the application. It is necessary to earth such experiences. A good, in-depth and internal experience, however meaningful, will stay there unless it is earthed, grounded, and worked out in our daily life.

How do I apply that encounter and the ‘message’ to my daily life? Major decisions lay ahead for me. It might sound too easy to say I will emulate the tree and shed what is unnecessary – but isn’t that the lesson here for me?. I believe so. We do need a periodic ‘spring clean’ to offload what is holding us back. What was good and beneficial then, might be a ‘boulder on our back’ slowing us down, now. Decisions need to be made – tough choices. And, doubts will creep in. That’s part of what it means to be human. We have the ability to reflect and be objective. And the greater the decision, perhaps, the greater the doubts. And, the greater the reward. Do not lose heart.

But, don’t be perturbed as if you are being singled out – and it probably will feel like it – but it’s common to all humanity especially when we face major challenges ahead. But,  I need to offload some things and travel lighter. The brook meanders this way and that way effortlessly. Perhaps, there are times when no resistance is needed. The concept of wu wei wu (Chinese words, pronounced ‘woo way woo’) is ‘action-no-action’, a free -flowing spontaneity, that is, that sometimes the best way forward is acceptance.

…The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going’. John 3.8b, The Book.

 I need to accept more of what is coming (but that’s not to say we cannot and shouldn’t make course corrections along the way – that too is part of our humanity). And, those chirping birds that rest in high and ancient trees, and then fly. I need, having rested, to trust in flight (more), and be borne on the high winds, to have faith, to travel to diverse encounters, adventures and happenings.

Don’t be afraid to be weak.
Don’t be too proud to be strong.
Just look into your heart my friend.
That will be the return to yourself.
The return to innocence.

(Song by Enigma)

And now, to action! ‘Allons-y’, as the French say. ‘Let’s go!’.

Ancestral Thoughts At Llynau Mymbyr: Alternative Perception

20190808 ANCETRAL THOUGHTS AT LLYNNAU MYMBYR ALTERNATIVE PERCEPTION

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

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

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

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

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

But we do get glimpses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What Are You Missing? Looking Beyond: Physical Metaphors

20190802 WHAT ARE YOU MISSING LOOKING BEYOND PHYSICAL METAPHORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

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

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

 

 

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?

 

An Encounter At Maen Llia

20180910 ENCOUNTER AT MEAN LLIA

Having inputted the details into the mobile phone’s navigational program – you have to love ‘Waze’ – and put the mobile phone into the car’s dashboard cradle I set off for Maen Llia – an ancient and mysterious standing stone. 

Where would we be without SatNav?

Typically the weather was inclement, but I’m in the car, and on the backseat is my trusty old waterproof jacket, plastic over-trousers, boots and a backpack with assorted food for the day. You can never be too careful.

‘The things you own end up owning you…’ Chuck Palahniuk,

Ah, modern hiking conveniences! What would we do without ‘thinsulate’?

Leaving Hay-On-Wye, the twenty-six mile journey should take about forty minutes. It look me a little bit longer. Driving along the B4350 wasn’t problematic, but joining the A438 and then the A470 was. It seemed the world and his wife was out today. Their were umpteen cars, coaches, even more cars, cement lorries and more, all  travelling at a fast pace. The kind of ‘get me to work fast’ pace, or ‘get me home quick’ speed. I could understand their need for speed, but I was in ‘tourist mode’. I was in ‘Oh, look there’s a cow, let me slow down’ speed.

Ah, modern motoring. Where would I be without my Renault Clio?

And so, not wishing to upset the drivers behind me and not wishing to gather speed and miss the moment – and I promise I wasn’t dawdling – I made plenty of space between me and the huge cement lorry in front so that the dozen motorists behind me could overtake. And they did.

’ I have two speeds. Nothing and full pelt’. André Rieu

And then I turned off onto a minor road running north from Ystradfellte, towards Heol Senni, at a much more leisurely pace. It was as if time itself had slowed. Bliss.

Certainly, the pace had to be slower, as the road was now only ten feet wide, wading, and with only the occasional ‘passing point’ should another car be coming in the opposite direction. And a few did. And, what great manners they had. Each taking time so that they and I could pass, inviting gestures, some ‘thumbs-up’ thankyous and with some reversing, but it was so civilised. Ballet de automobile!

Ah, the rule of the county road? Where would we be without the Highway Code?

And, then I spied it. Pulling over, I got out of the car and walked briskly up a small, grassy, rain-soaked incline toward Maen Llia,  an ancient standing stone. Alone in a rather bleak area. No one was where, except for me.. The people who pulled that hefty rock here – it’s about twelve feet high, nine feet wide, and two feet thick – are unknown, as is the reason for it being here. But, my not knowing, doesn’t detract from the splendour and majesty of this object that has stood here for thousands of years.

Maen Llia is timeless. It is a world away from SatNav, ‘Thinsulate’, motor cars, and the Highway Code. And, as I stood in front of it I couldn’t but bow my head a little, momentarily. This standing stone, indeed the area, is spiritual and alive with energy.

As I thought about the people who erected this standing stone, I couldn’t also but be ‘hit’ by the thought of how much we are all beholden to the modern world. Mechanical time, work routines, shopping trips to the supermarket, servicing cars and more – maybe ‘necessary evils’, but all alien to those who first gazed upon Maen Llia and experienced time differently.

‘Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.’ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

And yet, here I had an opportunity to take time out. Or, to be out of time. Ofcourse, that can happen anywhere, but it seems that humankind usually needs a prompt – isn’t that what ritual, anniversaries and statues do? They act as a focus, pointing to That Which Is Bigger Than Us.

And, as I stood in front on Maen Llia, now getting wet from the light rain caught by wind and blowing into me horizontally, it seemed that perhaps Maen Llia was that unknown people’s focal point. Some think that the standing stone could have been a boundary marker, but it could easily be something incredibly spiritual – a spiritual focal point for those ancients, especially as it looks like a finger pointing heavenward. And to me, that is exactly what it was. An incredibly isolated and spiritual place. A standing stone focal point to cause wonderment. The energy and ritual of the ancestors still reverberates in that place. You can’t see it with physical eyes, nor feel it one your skin, but it is palpable in a way beyond words. Ancestors, elementals, angels?

Interestingly, some paper guides say that Maen Llia is thirty yards/metres from the road, others say it’s sixty yards/metres. How can the two be reconciled? The answer could lay in the myth that when no one is looking the standing stone moves. Some say it occasionally wanders off, to the river, the Afon Llia to drink. Others say it does this one Midsummer’s Eve. 

Where would we be without myth and imagination?

With the rain now pouring, I said a few words and buried the Rainforest Jasper stone as a ritual action for Earth Healing, and then after a few minutes I headed back to the car, energised, and entered the modern world of mechanical time once again.

‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’ Mother Theresa