contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Month: September, 2015

MORE SPACE, FEWER WORDS

Just recently I’ve noticed a reluctance to write very much. I feel curious about this shift in my attention, and intuitively positive. My contemplative inquiry continues and my aims are the same. Yet the level of reading and writing that has shaped recent years no longer makes sense. It’s as though a phase has ended and a certain kind of job completed as far as it needs to be. I’m happy with what I’ve done, and I’m ready for a change in focus and expression. More space, fewer words: a reduction in apparent productivity, and an opportunity for something new to emerge if I’m willing to allow it.

In the meantime, I continue my contemplative practice in Druidry both solo and within my local group. I feel refreshed and sustained by these – so nothing’s changed there. More widely, Contemplative Druid Events is offering a contemplative day in Stroud on 3 October, a Dark on the Moon workshop in London on 7 February, and a weekend retreat near Malvern from 15-17 April. I’m enjoying this cautious expansion of outreach. Anyone interested in this work can follow its progress on:

http://contemplativedruidevents.tumblr.com

 

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USEFULNESS AND EMPTINESS

A re-blogged post about valuing stillness and emptiness within the balance of our lives.

Single Session Therapy

We live in a busy world where we are constantly over-stimulated. We extol the virtues of action; friendship is seen as a benchmark of social identity, and if you believe media hype you are not fully alive and complete as a person unless you are busy with travel, partying or acquisition (preferably all three at the same time).

So we don’t give a lot of thought to stillness and emptiness, preferring the full cup (the one that runneth over, remember?), and a full life.

While it’s true that all these things are important elements in a life, just as a sense of purpose and a feeling of fulfilment are, it can make us overlook the role of space or emptiness. Lao Tsu said that the usefulness in a bowl (or cup), is always in the empty space it contains.

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NATURE MYSTICS REVISITED

Mary_webb“Through a gradual awakening to natural beauty, she reached a perception of beauty peculiar to herself. She began to perceive analogies. Nature became for her, not a fortuitous assemblage of pretty things, but a harmony, a poem solemn and austere. It was for her no longer a flat painting on the wall of life. Beauty breathed there, light shone there that was not of the flower or the star. A tremor, mysterious and thrilling, seemed to run with the light through all matter, through a single open blossom of the wild gean tree and through the whispering forest.”*

In an earlier post – https://contemplativeinquiry.wordpress.com/2015/7/6/ – I introduced Nature Mystics: the Literary Gateway to Modern Paganism as a new and refreshing departure in Moon Books’ Pagan Portals series. This book, which I highly recommended, looks at literature seen to have nourished the culture and sensibility of modern Paganism. Rebecca Beattie, the author, has dedicated it “to all those Nature Mystics who have come before and continue to inspire us to a spiritual path with their words”.

This post is about a single book that I have read since reviewing Nature Mystics and would probably not have read otherwise. This is The House in Dormer Forest by Mary Webb. Unlike the better known Precious Bane and Gone to Earth, it is set at about the time of publication (1920) or perhaps a little earlier. I don’t think of it as a brilliant novel, but it does testify to a form of nature mysticism, one that brings together external nature, human consciousness, and the divine.

Running through the book is an assumption of the interdependence of humans with each other and with the rest of the natural world. Yet there is also a balancing emphasis on the personal, inner journey of individuation. The author makes this comment on two somewhat negatively portrayed matriarchal characters: “these two had been meant for individualists. This not being allowed, they became egoists, which always happens on the principle that if you deny a child sugar it will steal from the sugar-basin. The human mind, unless it is to remain nescient, must have itself, must develop and explore itself. The more vital, the more awake it is, the more it must turn inwards. For within, deep in the tenebrous recesses of sub-consciousness, man hopes to find God. Not in churches, not in his fellows, not in nature will he find God until he has found all these things mirrored in that opaque and fathomless pool, lying within his own being of which, as yet, we know nothing.”

If the inner journey has been made possible, the experience of creation is transformed. Human relationship can flourish and the human role of witness to external nature can become a mutual gift. I was brought up with an educated aversion to ‘purple passages’ and their perceived sentimentality. Yet now, I am happy to offer this one. “So it was with Michael and Amber. Arms were stretched forth in welcome. Flute notes fell from thickets. The eyes of bird and insect, the dewy gaze of a few late flowers, peered on them with new meanings. Along by the streams the willows, clad in silver-dusted feathers, meditated like stately birds. Willows are of all trees the most mysterious. It is said that they were the first of trees that before a bird sang or a bee quested for honey the world was full of willow forests. There the wind went in spring, a visible golden wave, deeply laden with yellow pollen. There, in the glistening air, with none but their own silver tongues to break the silence, the willows waited. They waited for the insects to come to their yellow aments; for the birds to flash in and out, making low music in the dusk. But they awaited also the perception which would complete their creation. The flowers that bloom unknown for a thousand years only exist when at last one flower blossoms under a perceptive eye. For that flower the pollen was launched spring after spring, the nectar gathered, the seed rounded. So the understanding of beauty is a priesthood. Amber and Michael gave to the forest almost as much as they gathered from it as they wandered in the warm and mellow harvest weather.”

*Mary Webb The House in Dormer Forest The Echo Library: Fairford, Gloucestershire, England, 2012

POEM: TALIESIN

Poem by Ross Nichols, who founded OBOD in 1964.  I like his seamless interweaving of naturalistic, mythic and theosophical themes – because for him they are one integrated experience. For me the poem reads like the work of someone who needed to live it in order to write it.

Here the Fish enters

The world of dark water

Pre-birth waters

Waterworld Elysium

Lake Tegid and the magic weir.

Much does he grow,

Many his transformations.

Warm are the waters,

The dark waters of Tegid,

And they swiftly flow

Downwards as he grows.

Talisin is found in the weir:

Elphin finds him

In a bag of leather

Where the waterworld dams,

Where the womb-waters

Are falling terribly

At the weir of birth.

The entering fish

Was the spirit of Taliesin:

His transformations

Were the many souls and bodies of Taliesin:

Leading him gently, drifting him slowly

Into the bodily definition of Taliesin,

His bag of leather,

His separated skin.

And Taliesin, after his separated life,

His songs and his wonders. His challenges and his fame,

Shall enter again as a Fish,

Shall know again sufferings and transfigurations

And the waters of Tegid.

For Taliesin was ever upon earth,

Knew all things, suffered all things.

And Taliesin shall be

In many wonderful shapes,

A grain of wheat and a hare

Sown and running

While there are fields, and the spirit of men,

Leaping alive at a harvest,

Or silver in the waters of time.

This poem can be found in the collection Prophet Priest and King: the Poetry of Ross Nichols edited and introduced by Jay Ramsay Lewes: Oak Tree Press, 2001.

CONTEMPLATIVE DRUIDRY: MEME OR MOVEMENT?

On 3 October Contemplative Druid Events (CDE) – see http://contemplativedruidevents.tumblr.com – will hold its last planned event for 2015. This will be a Contemplative Day, in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. The facilitators will be James Nichol, Elaine Knight and Nimue Brown. Our programme is designed for a group of up to 15 people, and 12 are already committed. With just over a month to go we have a comfortable size of group, with room for a few more.

CDE offerings are built around insights from the book Contemplative Druidry: People Practice and Potential about the kinds of contemplative work that most seemed to resonate for the present generation of Druids. We offer sitting meditations of based both on a bare attention and on active imagination. We have outdoor walking meditations and opportunities simply to be, with awareness, in natural settings. We use methods that draw on creative arts. We have developed ‘Awen space’ as a group opening to, in and as Spirit. We build our repertoire as we gain in experience.

Is CDE spearheading Contemplative Druidry as a movement? I don’t see it that way. CDE was created as a minimal level of organisation for a single purpose. This is to offer a particular kind of event to small groups of Druids and fellow-travellers willing to join us. In doing this, we also promote the contemplative Druid meme, which now seems to be well recognised in modern Druid culture. But the CDE brand does not exhaust the possibilities of contemplative Druidry and we wouldn’t want it to. Modern Druidry, which is in some senses a postmodern Druidry, has a strong commitment to free exploration and diversity. The contemplative meme will find its place within that wider cultural framework. For better or for worse, we will never, as a collective, be organised around a Druid ‘four noble truths’. Contemplative Druidry will mean different things, and inspire different journeys, for different Druids.