I started wearing my Paidirean – the Ceile De prayer beads – for my morning practice on 19 December. In the Ceile De Order they are used in conjunction with what in this tradition is called the Heart Prayer:
A Thighearna … Solus an domhain … Chriost mo chridhe … dean trocair oirnn
Ah hee-earn-ah … Solus on dowain … Chree-ost mo chree … Jaun trok-ir orn
O Lord … Light of the world … Christ my heart … show mercy/compassion/grace
I don’t follow the practice as prescribed, but I notice that I soon started saying this prayer aloud (having listened carefully to the Ceile De CD) when doing walking meditation – initially drawn in by the sound of the old language. In walking meditation I am mindful to each footfall and so in working the Heart Prayer I have become mindful to each footfall and a syllable of the Heart Prayer as well (except of course when I am not). As time has gone on I have increased the use of the prayer, sometimes said aloud, sometimes not. I intersperse this with times of complete silence within as well as without to make the practice more spacious. Likewise in sitting meditation, essentially a plain breath meditation, I have introduced the key phrase “Chriost mo chridhe”, as an intermittent mantra within the practice. These words in particular anchor in my sense that ‘Christ’ stands for an interior awakening rather than an external or historical being.
Why has this prayer become resonant to me? I am reminded again of the summer of 2007. At midsummer I went to Melrose and had the experiences I described in my previous blog post. On a weekend late in July I was scheduled to go to a conference with my partner Elaine. The plan involved getting from Bristol, where I lived, to Stroud, where she lived. But we were cut off from each other by floods: roads closed, railway in chaos. So we both stayed put. I was following the OBOD Ovate course at the time and decided to have a day of ritual derived from the course followed by a day of reflection and recovery. The main result of all this, the one image that fully imprinted itself and which I took away, was that of a dove feather falling gently down beside me It felt initiatic and it gave me my felt sense of connection with Sophia the Holy Wisdom. It changed the course of my work. My centre of gravity had shifted and I realised that I had quite a bit of work to do to make this breakthrough good. How was I going to use the altered state of the ritual experience to create a more lasting change? Although not fully recognized at the time, this was the beginning of my ‘contemplative’ turn.
Sophia brings a gnostic understanding to Christ consciousness, awakening the practitioner to a non-dual awareness where knower, known and knowledge, lover, love and beloved, are one. Except that this last sentence is also a formula of sorts and formulas – even if authentic messages from those who have gone before us – are necessarily suspect. This, at least, is what I take away from the gnostic Gospel of Thomas:
“Jesus said to his followers, ‘compare me to something and tell me what I am like. Simon Peter said to him, ‘you are like a just messenger’. Matthew said to him, ‘you are like a wise philosopher’. Thomas said to him, ‘Teacher my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like’. Jesus said, ‘I am not your Teacher. Because you have drunk, you have been intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have measured out.’ Two followers have personal and cultural presuppositions so strong that their availability for direct experience is compromised. Only one is sufficiently open and unknowing to make the connection and the shift that goes with it.
Thich Nhat Hanh puts it another way. “In Buddhist circles, we are careful to avoid getting stuck in concepts, even concepts like ‘Buddhism’ and ‘Buddha’. If you think of the Buddha as someone separate from the rest of the world, you will never recognize a Buddha even if you see him on the street. That is why one Zen Master said to his student, ‘When you meet the Buddha, kill him’. He meant that the student should kill the Buddha-concept in order for him to experience the real Buddha directly.” (From Living Buddha, Living Christ.)
Following my experience in late July 2007, I wrote a blackberry Lughnasadh verse for my wheel of the year tree poem.
I am Blackberry
The bramble and the fruit and the wine
And the spirit.
Intoxication as from a bubbling spring,
Freely measured out.
It alluded to the words in St. Thomas and reflected my realization, such as it was. It was not particularly mature or fully integrated, but it did push me into seeking and developing a more rigorous and systematic personal practice. My hope is that the new shift inspired by the paidirean will deepen and extend it.