contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Tag: Song of the World

FULLNESS

Yesterday I spent 90 minutes watching trees, their branches now bare, against a steadily darkening sky. I forgot myself in the scene, feeling filled with it. The core experience was fullness.

I suppose that this is what I mean by the ‘sacrament of the present moment’ – though this experience was of the flowing present, extended over time, noticing and enjoying change in nature. On later reflection, I was less reminded of mystics and meditators than of poets, particularly John Keats and his ‘negative capability’. He contrasted this with another type of response, which he called “the Wordsworthian or egotistical sublime”. Negative capability is “everything and nothing – it has no character – it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated – It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the chameleon poet”. (1)

‘Everything and nothing’ can be experienced as empty or full. I’m increasingly finding fullness. This has the effect of holding me in nature and time, in my unique human life soon enough to be over. This is where I want to be, with the important qualification that ‘fullness’ gives me a additional sense of being resourced by a larger well-spring of life than I might otherwise recognise. Experienced fullness doesn’t come simply from trees and sky. It comes also from the receptive openness I access when my senses are attuned. I find myself feeling a stillness underneath and within all movement; hearing a silence underneath and within all sound; seeing a soft luminescence underneath and within all colour and form, and in darkness too. These are the keys to fullness – a fullness where everything stills and slows down yet doesn’t stop.

Largely this is what I now mean (for myself) by a ‘contemplative’ state. Its development reflects a magpie approach to learning and my felt sense of what is right for me. I discovered the stillness through Buddhist breath meditation (movement of the breath as the belly rises and falls; yet stillness within). But I am not a Buddhist. I learned the silence through listening to the Oran Mor (Song of the World), though I don’t currently work within Gaelic traditions. I discovered (what should I call it?) primordial luminescence within the Headless Way (2). But I’m not continuing with the Headless path, because the headless trope itself now feels tedious and I don’t entirely share the Harding world view. Fullness has a link to Sophian Gnosticism, of all these traditions the closest to my heart, under the Greek name Pleroma. But my ‘fullness’ has come out of direct experience and I’m being careful to keep it that way. I like the resonance of the English word fullness, and it helps to maintain a degree of separation from the ancient view. Yet even whilst maintaining my inner authority, I am grateful for these inputs from the world’s spiritual heritage. I remain indebted whilst crafting my own path.

I’m not Keats and, for me, negative capacity for fullness tends to come as an alloy. It is generally interspersed with a certain amount of egotistical sublime, in my case as an upgraded stream of consciousness or monkey mind narrative. In my universe, that’s fine too, and all part of the fullness. I would like more skill in switching between the two modes at will, and I believe this to be achievable. At another level, it doesn’t really matter.

(1) Keats selected poems and letters Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1995 (Selected by Robert Gittings; edited by Sandra Anstey)

(2) http://www.headless.org

THE GARDEN AND THE GODDESS

I was sitting in meditation this morning, a simple attention-to-the-breath practice. I found myself flooded with a specific stream of imagery, and recognised three options. The first was to pull my attention back to the breath and keep it there. The second was to surf it awarely, with my attention focused on holding an observer position. The third was to surrender to it, also awarely – and to follow the images, the spontaneous stream of consciousness, and enter into them.

In the context I found the first choice a bit blinkered and almost aggressive and the second not quite satisfying. The third was the way to go. So I found myself in a garden, a walled garden, with the Song of the World, audible, expressing itself as the song of the sea not very far away. I recognised the place I was in. The garden was connected to a ruined temple, or chapel. I couldn’t determine what kind of people had built it, or worshipped there. It didn’t matter. The garden itself was the nemeton: tended not manicured, balancing cultivation and wildness.

At the centre of the garden was a fountain, surrounded by beds of roses, white and red. The rest of the garden was dedicated to fruit trees – apple, pear, peach, and also cherry – going so far indeed as to include fig and pomegranate and vines trained up the walls. There, too, was a white dove, moving between the trees. A magical place.

I knew this garden. It had changed somewhat, but I knew it. It was connected with the final version of the visualisation based meditations I used to do, in fact a modified version of the Sacred Grove meditation we do in OBOD. It’s my sacred space in the heart, an imaginal space in a realm of greater depth and interiority than the energetic heart centre, an Innerworld gateway to an intimated Otherworld.

When left to itself and not being edited by me for the purposes of Druidry, the feeling-tone is culturally at least as much Hellenistic and Levantine as indigenous and Celtic, and there are suggestions of places further away. At heart I am spiritually syncretistic and eclectic. When I first opted for Druidry as a community I chose OBOD because it provides a home for Druids of this ilk.

The garden has also, traditionally, been a place of the Goddess, a place for meeting and communion with Her.  When I used to do this practice, and named her, I called her Sophia – the Lady Wisdom.  But she has many names and took many forms. She was the fountain, the roses and the trees. She was garden itself, and the neighbouring sea. She was the dove. She could also be a serpent or an owl, especially at night in moonlight. But usually the garden was a day space, a solar space. I could feel her, more personally, as an invisible presence in the atmosphere of place. Very occasionally she appeared as a human woman – sometimes in the garden and focused on it, not engaging directly with me; more rarely still holding extended eye contact (‘soul-gazing’); once or twice standing behind me, Her hands on my shoulders. Today, in the vision of the garden, She returned to me, as deep recollection and as living presence.

Yet only a short time ago I wrote:

“The sense of the Goddess (under different names) as both cosmic birther and mentoring intermediary, which I have had throughout the whole period of my association with Druidry and Paganism, has died. This is not a matter of ultimate belief, where I have always had a form of non-dual view, but rather in a sense of a shift in archetypal poetics and psychology, of imaginal perception. It gives me a sense both of mourning and of release, of loss and of spaciousness”.

What do I make of this now? The dissolution of Goddess into Oran Mor (and of Oran Mor into latency, or Void, at some ultimate level) is a real experience.  The Goddess in the Garden is also a real experience – the experience of a numinous and compelling image. As I look at my previous words, ‘cosmic birther and mentoring intermediary’, I find them a little formulaic, a bit concrete and literal, and therefore a kind of subtle idolatry, by which I mean an unconscious manipulation of numinous imagery: re-making the Goddess in my image, rather than simply accepting the gift. It suggests an instrumental kind of relationship, with me covertly in charge whatever level of reverence or devotion I might proclaim: not quite authentic and not quite healthy. No wonder the Goddess dissolved. She had to, for a while.

The return feels different, because I’m allowing an image, giving space to it. An image is an image. The Goddess image has tremendous power, for me. It doesn’t ask for explanation or belief. It is just there, offering itself for connection. In the meditation of the garden, I let the image be. I don’t have a script. I don’t run a narrative. Of course the pattern of imagery builds an Innerworld presence of some consistency, as well as changing over time. Essentially, though, I let it be. I don’t go to the garden asking questions, asking for help, or entering into bargains, discussions and exchanges. They aren’t the point. The point is connection and deep communion. I used to think that breath meditation was passive and Innerworld work active. Now I think of it as almost the other way round.

CELEBRATIONS: THE SONG IN THE HEART IN THE SONG OF THE WORLD

Within my contemplative practice, I use a process called ‘celebrations’.

It is not a meditation as I use that term, because it includes discursive thinking and reflection.

It is not prayer: no being or presence or energy is addressed or born in mind as an auditor.

It is not lectio: it is based on a text I wrote myself, which I revise in the light of continuing inquiry and experience.

It is not simple ‘affirmation’ – because it works with an edge and can bring up ‘negative’ feelings and experiences of alienation, as well as being pleasurable and affirming.

The sequence, which can take variable amounts of time to work through, goes like this:

Celebrating body and senses.

Celebrating life energy.

Celebrating feelings, thoughts and images.

Celebrating the space inside the breath, and the healing in that space.

Celebrating the song in the heart in the song of the world:

Living presence, in a field of living presence,

Always enough; always at home.

I don’t say ‘I celebrate my …’. In this practice I use the gerund ‘celebrating’ and leave out ‘my’ so as to keep the focus processual and thereby avoid turning it in to a ‘who am I?’ practice. Such practices are widely available and are designed to disidentify practitioners from the body, senses, life energy, feelings, thoughts, images, ‘I-ness’ (or ego), finally to rest in an observer position, which, despite the residual dualism in the whole notion of observation, is often seen as the threshold of an enlightenment or theosis. In this practice I want to stay immersed in the process, and leave the ‘I’ question out.

I owe ‘celebrating’ to my background in humanistic psychology and co-counselling in particular. In a therapeutic context a phrase like ‘celebrating body’ could easily provide an ample agenda for a weekend workshop, given the level of negative body image and negative body experience that people find themselves dealing with  – but also given the joy and liberation that come with healing. For the invitation to ‘celebrate’ paradoxically evokes distress, where the way of ‘celebration’ at best seems artificial and a worst a cruel mockery. The work is to stay with the notion of celebration, to give the distress its due and then let it go, and find a place where there is something authentically to celebrate. In the therapeutic context, a number of methods may be used to assist this process. In the contemplative context, aware contemplation itself can have a transmuting effect.  When I turn my attention to my body and run through what’s going on throughout my body and five senses, I generally find myself noticing the strains, anxieties and discomforts of the moment and then moving to a celebration of embodiment itself, the sheer gift of being in this world, in this way, at this time and with this experience. The same is true of life energy, feelings, thoughts and images.

At the fourth line, ‘Celebrating the space inside the breath, and the healing in that space’ I find a change in feeling tone, since the practice tends to become naturally celebratory – though this is not always the case, since I may feel cut off from the power of contemplative practice itself. For this is an affirmation of meditative states in their therapeutic aspect, and I tend to drop in to a fully meditative state during this phase, letting go for a while of the words and celebration, indeed of the exercise itself for a period.

At the fifth line, I move to my sense of the Oran Mor (the song in the heart in the song of the world), which celebrates my sense of the numinous, of my connection to or involvement in Mystery. The last two lines introduce no new celebration. They are an elaboration of ‘celebrating the song in the heart in the song of the world’.  I said in a recent post that I experienced the Goddess dissolving into the Oran Mor. In this practice I may likewise almost experience the ‘song in the heart’ dissolve into ‘the song of the world’. I can certainly visualise and intuit this. Terms like ‘song in the heart’, Goddess, Oran Mor, become porous and hard to distinguish. Yet here too, in this section of the practice, I can also experience dis-connection and alienation. If I find myself needing to accept this as my actual state, then the celebration is of the words themselves and the recognition that I wrote them myself, with integrity, at an earlier time: it is me who is reminding myself of what becomes available in a state of openness and celebration.

BRIGHID AND THE ORAN MOR

Truly inspiring! I am greatly moved by Joanna’s  eloquent and powerful piece. It’s great when someone else in in the current of a similar yet distinct inspiration.

Down the Forest Path

This is a reblog from my latest blog post at Moon Books. I hope you enjoy it, and do let me know if you’ve had similar experiences. 🙂

I had meditated and tranced for nearly an hour before my altar, to the sounds of the birds outside and Heloise Pilkington on my cd player. http://www.heloisepilkington.com/index.htm  My cats joined me, sleeping in their respective spots, their purrs vibrating along my spine.  As the incense burned out, I came back to myself, having danced with my goddess, diving in her mysteries and those of my own soul.

I was ready now. Time to go out, to seek her, to seek the awen.  I packed a small bag with more incense and some water and made my way out of the house and onto the heath. Taking my time, walking slowly, I feel more graceful after my time spent at my altar…

View original post 1,172 more words

ORAN MOR THE MAGIC OF SKYPE

Last night (my time) I had a Skype conversation with a group of people mostly in Nova Scotia (their early evening) and a person from Washington State, USA (early afternoon). I had been invited by Alix Sandra Huntley-Speirs of Alba Nuadh: the Druid Arts of Nova Scotia, a group which can be found on http://www.albanuadh.com

The topic was the Oran Mor, including its relationship to the contemplative thread in Druidry. As it happens I’ve been quite recently re-alerted to the Oran Mor, and it wasn’t a topic within my book Contemplative Druidry: People Practice and Potential which we also discussed a little bit. Additionally, the Nova Scotia group are wanting to incorporate their sense of the Oran Mor into their work together. So this made for a dynamic and flowing conversation. From my point of view I certainly needed to respond and think and talk on the spot. So I believe did everyone else.

I felt that I had been privileged to enter an authentic space of co-creation. I had a certainty that something of significance will come of this, both for the group and also for those of us who were in (literally) different places. I can’t ‘know’ that of course, yet I feel it strongly. Speaking for myself, I moved on in an important way. I moved from a space in which I was focused on early meanings and subsequent interpretations of Oran Mor, and how they might guide me, to one where my inquiry has become more visceral. How will The Oran Mor live through me, in my body, heart and mind. How will it shift my experience, my life world?

I appreciate all the people who made this conversation happen, including myself, and to the technology. I know that Alba Nuadh want to continue the practice of Skype conversations and I recommend others to experiment with this medium for Druid conversations.

ABOUT THE ORAN MOR (GREAT SONG)

In my last post, I presented my Amazon review of Jason Kirkey’s The Salmon in the Spring prefaced by his view of the Oran Mor (Great Song), itself somewhat indebted to earlier work by Frank MacKeown.  This followed on from my recent reading of a post involving the Oran Mor by Alison Leigh Lily at Q&A: What is the Song of the World, which I picked up through a reblog on Joanna van der Hoeven’s Down the Forest Path, and reblogged myself on https://contemplativeinquiry.wordpress.com/2015/4/2/ . Kirkey essentially sees the Oran Mor as something like the Divine Ground, or the Tao of Chinese mystical philosophy, something that includes all beings whether they be mountains, salmon, humans, midges, wolfhounds, gods or sidhe.

Soon after I read the book I discussed my take on the Oran Mor in a local radio interview, which can now  be found in the OBOD website on http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/other-paths/druidry-dharma/. Those interested can scroll down to AUDIO Druidry & Buddhism Stroud FM 141210.mp3.  At that time I was more involved in Buddhism than I am now, but generally I still stand by the things I said.

Concerning the Oran Mor, I focused on implications for the personal spiritual path rather than wider issues of cosmology. I suggested that we are invited to do three things:

  1. Learn to hear the Song. This is another way of talking about re-enchantment, the beginning of the conscious journey in paths like Druidry.
  2. Find our unique note, or sound, and sing it. Whilst each note is meaningless, indeed impossible, without the Song, the Song is itself dependent on our individual contributions.
  3. Learn to hear the silence behind and within the Song. For without that the Song, in our perception can become just a noise, even if a beautiful one. To awakening to a full awareness and appreciation of the Song, we need the dimension of silence and stillness as well as sound.

I have noticed one strange thing. When interviewed for Stroud FM (and about half-way through the piece), I confidently attributed these last sentiments to Jason Kirkey. But I’ve looked through the book again and I can’t find them there. So it seems to have been my way of inwardly digesting his book and in a sense the emergence of my own note in relation to the Oran Mor itself as concept, image and inspiration. Still, a mystery, and quite startling when I listened to the interview and then went through the text again. My self-image is one of being careful with attributions and acknowledgements. Perhaps that’s why I felt such a strong energetic pull when the Oran Mor was brought to my attention again.

The Bookish Hag

Druidry: Reflections From A Bookish Beginner.

The Blog of Baphomet

a magickal dialogue between nature and culture

RAW NATURE SPIRIT

nature based spiritual path ~ intuitive life ~ psychology ~ poetry ~ magic ~ writer

This Simple Life

The gentle art of living with less

Musings of a Scottish Hearth Druid

Thoughts about living, loving and worshiping as a Hearth Druid. One woman's journey.

The River Crow

Reflections of a meandering Hedgedruid

Wheel of the Year Blog

An place to read and share stories about the celtic seasonal festivals

Walking the Druid Path

Just another WordPress.com site

anima monday

Exploring our connection to the wider world

Atheopaganism

An Earth-honoring religious path rooted in science

Grounded Space Focusing

Become more grounded and spacious with yourself and others, through your own body’s wisdom

The Earthbound Report

Good lives on our one planet

John Halstead

The Allergic Pagan; HumanisticPaganism.com; Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Paganism; A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment; Earthseed

Stroud Radical Reading Group

Stroud Radical Reading Group meets once a month. Here you can find details of sessions, links, and further information

The Hopeless Vendetta

News for the residents of Hopeless, Maine.

barbed and wired

not a safe space - especially for the guilty

Meditation with Daniel

Mindfulness for Everyone

Down the Forest Path

A Journey Through Nature, its Magic and Mystery

Druid Life

Pagan reflections from a Druid author - life, community, inspiration, health, hope, and radical change

What Comes, Is Called

The work and world of Ki Longfellow