Sunday, 19 December 2010

Mysticism

Brief paraphase of articles from the website The Wild Things of God which I came across recently and I liked the style of writing. The end indented paragraphs are directly copied text as it was getting too laborious for me to rework them into my own words.

Mysticism - a spirituality of the direct experience of God. It is a knowing, not a belief, and marked by love and joy but not an emotional experience. Marriage of the soul to Christ just as Jesus and God are one. The mystic should be as fully permeated with Christ as God is being fully human and fully divine (by the grace of God). It isn't all about experiences which can come and go but on the lasting experience of God. The believer is transformed into a union with God (via Transformativa?)

The Bible was written by mystics. How can you read it without preconceived perceptions of language, culture. personal history?

We need to have a religion not about Jesus. but OF Jesus - of his knowledge and unconditional love.

Mysticism is about unconditional love - and that could apply to anyone. (1Jn 4:7)

When Jesus declares "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10.30) - in himself is the union of God and humankind - offered to all.

Starting point for mysticism is encountering the Goodness of God - not a conditional 'goodness' but pure Goodness. (Original Blessing, Cosmic Goodness...) Few of us are able to see the infinite goodness around us... (ongoing Divine Creative energy) What has happened?

We need to be as children - v. mystical.

We have been told to accept the contradiction of God is infinite love vs eternal torture in Hell. So we believe it is conditional of our: salvation, works, prayer .... . Dichotomy of heart and head: child's faith in absolute goodness vs adult awareness, intelligence and incompetence.

Let go, let God.

Beware of pride, fear and holding on to experiences. Also loneliness - and a narrow path (I know it all too well)

The idea that God is love but will also torment those who do not accept Jesus is an impossible contradiction and erronness misunderstanding of the gospel. How could a Father punish his children endlessly? It is pointless as it accepts no rehabilitation or healing.

Greek word for 'Eternal' means 'Age' - indefinite but not infinite. God's eternity is not described in the Bible. True eternity = absence of time. ie is part of creation, but God transcends time. God is in time, but he is over time. God is not eternal, he is eternity. To God there is nothing but the NOW.

"Consider this: did you really know what you were doing when you accepted Jesus? How can anyone know what they are really doing in rejecting him, or more accurately, what they perceive to be him? We don't. Forgiveness has been proclaimed."

"Literally dozens of passages of Scripture say that salvation will be universal. All mankind, even all creation, will be saved. The hills shall jump for joy, the trees clap their hands, the lion and lamb lie down together. The rocks and stones will sing praises."

"Does Salvation Mean "Knowing Jesus?"

No. The teaching that Jesus is the only path to salvation, contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself. In the three earlier Synoptic gospels, Jesus never suggests "believing in him" is the criterion for salvation. In fact, Jesus warns that it is not those who call him "Lord," who will enter heaven, but those who live the Kingdom life of love! (Mt. 7.21) In the Judgment scene in Mt. 25.31-46, (far and away the most detailed description of judgment in the Bible), Jesus says that those who do good works, creating a better world for the "least of his brothers," actually do it for him whether they know it or not, and will be blessed with his Presence, while those who do not will suffer "burning" in the age-long fire which we've already discussed. Throughout these first three gospels, Jesus doesn't even care if anyone "knows" him or has "a personal relationship" with him! He cares instead that people embrace his teaching—Good News—that the Kingdom of heaven is here, that God is "Father," that in embracing selfless love, we lose our false self, but gain the whole world.

On the other hand, the later gospel of John presents Jesus as the "Cosmic Christ," who is one with the Father, and called "Word", "Light", "Water of Life", and "the Way." The emphasis has shifted from the teaching to the Teacher, in light of his embodiment of the love of God. This Love is called Christ. When Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by me," (Jn 14:6) he is speaking of his nature as the love of God made visible. It is only by being filled with Divine Love that we can "come to the Father." By whatever name it is given by followers of whatever religion or no religion, it is the same, and it is "the narrow gate" through which all must come. The human identity of its bearer is not what's important; the essential thing is following his example in loving unconditionally, becoming Christ. As he said: This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you. (Jn.15.12)

Many passages in the apostles' writings at first glance suggest that belief in Jesus is essential. But the Bible never records the apostles using a threat of "damnation" for not accepting the Gospel. Paul's voice speaks especially strongly about universal salvation. Yet Paul also presents Jesus as the "necessary sacrifice" for sin, implying belief in him is mandatory. The reason for this is found in his letters, where he repeatedly explains his dual mission of presenting the Good News to both the Jews and the Gentiles, and adjusting his message to his audiences, "becoming all things to all men." (1 Cor. 9.19-23). His Jewish audiences demanded to know how sacrifice fits into this message, and so, Paul presents Jesus as the only sacrifice needed, the fulfillment of the Law. To Gentiles, he presents the cosmic Christ, "the love of God made visible," (Rm. 8.39) reconciling all things in heaven and earth to the Father through selfless love. (Eph. 1.10-11). "

"The Gospel of John reveals the "Cosmic Christ," that is, Christ is identified not only as Jesus on earth, but as the whole creative and redemptive movement of God throughout space and time. Thus, Christ is the Word which brings everything into existence (1:2-3), the Light that enlightens all humanity, (1:9) the Bread of God that sustains all life, (6:33) and much more."

"Panentheism and Christian Mystical Spirituality:

Most great truths of Christian faith, and perhaps most great truths, period, are expressed as paradox. God is completely One, and yet, Triune and Infinite. Jesus is fully and completely human, but fully divine, as well. Panentheism presents another one: God is completely transcendent, and yet, immanent throughout his Creation. Like the mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation, panentheism is an ancient theological realization.

The Greek Church Fathers referred to the transcendence of God as God's "essence" (ousia) and the immanence of God as his "energies" (energeia). In 553, at the Second Council of Constantinople, the universal Church proclaimed a panentheistic vision of the Trinity, developed from St. Paul's writing in Ephesians: "There is One God and Father from whom all things are, one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are." God is in all things, for they spring from him, and all things are in God, for they subsist in him, yet he transcends all as well as emanates in all. "

Panentheism and other God-views:

Panentheism offers the potential for greater dialogue and communication between Christians and those of other views. Other religions share with Christianity this apprehension of the simultaneous beyondness and hereness of the Ultimate as well, even though they use different terms. Buddhism, for instance, speaks of "the Unmade," "the Unconditioned", "the Void"-that which is beyond all concepts on the one hand, but of "Buddha-nature" the divine potential immanent within all "sentient beings," on the other.

Furthermore, many people who call themselves atheists or agnostics actually are not; many have a strong sense of a spiritual dimension, but simply find the images of a "personal God" an intellectual hurdle. Often this is because of misunderstandings brought about by poorly communicated concepts of a very man-like God (though with extraordinary powers) somewhere "up above," reacting with wild emotions to events in the world. These simplistic images have offended countless people from believing in God, and countless more from being able to trust him deeply. So millions of Christians find themselves adults with dissonant, childish (and often threatening) images of God, and millions of non-religious people have only seen such images and rightly reject them.

The panentheism of the Bible is quite different: it certainly presents God as relating to persons and thus "personal," but also as infinitely beyond personality. To communicate God's infinity, the Bible describes God in many non-personal images as well. Consider a few: Spirit,(Jn 4.24) Sun, (Mal 3:20) Word, (Jn 1:1) Rock, (1Cor 10:4) Fire, (Heb 12:29) Light, (1 Jn 1:5) Waters of Life, (Rev 21.1) Wisdom, (Pr 1.20) and Love. (1 Jn 4:8) Perhaps we should keep in mind that God's "person"-ality is also a metaphor, for (he? she? it? all pronouns fail when contemplating this magnificence!) is as infinitely beyond being a "person" in the traditional sense as the One who created light is beyond being light.

No view of God is larger than the panentheistic view. All other theisms (deism, theism, polytheism, animism, pantheism, atheism) are fragmented theologies compared to panentheism. This is the ground for an inexhaustible faith-that God is present right now, in every cell of our bodies, in every beat of our hearts, in every person, in every star, in every loving thought, birthing every particle of every atom of the entire Creation into a constant stream of existence, the invisible Nothing and Nowhere that brings forth Everything and Everywhere. God in all things and all things in God invites wonder, and wonder invites all to touch God.

Beliefs are not Reality

It's essential to remember that all of these ideas are metaphors. Doctrines, words, concepts, thoughts and pictures all translate, emphasize, reflect, and otherwise point to reality. But no description of reality is the reality it describes. Words and pictures, ideas and doctrines, are not the things they point to. They are distorted indicators, utterly different in kind from what they point to. You can describe a tree in your backyard to me all day long, but until I touch it with my own hands, I can't feel its bark. If description can't communicate the tree-ness of a tree, how much less can words communicate God!

This is important! Challenging ideas are often vital for breaking up entrenched thought patterns and opening the mind. Yet no concept, no matter how inspirational, is that divine reality we seek, anymore than Magritte's pipe is something you can pick up and smoke.

We need to remember that God is the name we use for the Unspeakable. Simply put, the Source of everything is beyond all names. The “Trinity” is a conception of how the Infinite One relates to the phenomenal world of beings, matter, and time, which we call Creation. “The Fall from grace” is another. Other religions have their concepts as well—lila, nirvana, maya. But to latch on to any one of these as “the Truth ” instead of a helpful pointer to truth, is to miss the point entirely! It's like several people pointing to that tree in the backyard and arguing whether the tree has three parts or fifteen parts—or arguing if the leaves are dark green, forest green, or olive.

God cannot be divided. God simply is. The Universe simply is. What is simply is. All our thoughts and concepts divide Is-ness in our minds, and divide our minds from Is-ness.

Awakening is the transition from "religion" with its firm answers, perspectives, and experiences, to realization, the awareness of what IS. Even more important is “Real-ization,” the embodiment of that awareness. The important things in mysticism are not concepts, thoughts, feelings, or even experiences, but the questions and questing for nothing else but this One we call God. Beliefs—in the sense of concepts which must be protected, are not part of Christian mystical life. In this sense, you must not “believe” in God. Instead, just rest in Being. And in being, and being with Being, you rest with God, the Ground of Being. Don't “believe” in the Trinity. Trust the holy and wholly indescribable Reality in whom you “live, move, and have your being”.

The Greek word pisteo is almost always translated “belief” or “faith” in the New Testament. However, it also means trust and is better translated as such. Dare to move from belief to trust.

Slowly, joyfully, lovingly, destroy your concepts and mental images into the burning furnace of just being with the One. Just love what is, seen and unseen. Don't name it. Don't label it. Don't even think about it. Just do what Jesus said: Come as a child.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Green Lane

Sunday 12 December and a short weekend visit to Herefordshire

I haven't walked up the road from Titley to Green Lane Farm before. The darkness and starlit sky is gradually giving way to the just perceptible and gentle brightening on the distant horizon. Beneath me the frost covers the cold ground and the road is a touch icy. I climb up the side of the valley between the tall hedgerows and turn west along the Mortimer Trail that follows the top of the hill towards Burnt House, a place I have been to many times before.

It has been a good year and a half or more since I have walked up here and the farming landscape has changed dramatically. A large new farm sits on the hilltop where once there was just pasture; ancient hedgerows have been cut back and replanted and now fields of frosted fodder beet (?) covered the hillside and were being grazed by at least 200+ cattle kept in check by long lengths of electric fences. Around the edges of many of the fields long rows of pale blue round wrapped silage bales in a pattern that seem to reflect the technical planting of conifers just on the other side of the valley. Rather incongruous to the natural landscape. But there is nothing 'natural' here as even the old hedges would have once been laid by hand and Green Lane itself the result of landowners gone by. The woodland was probably managed significantly in the past; the old farmstead at Burnt House must have been a significant dwelling and the quarry further up hillside a source of much stone and activity.

The peace and beauty of the hill here is incredible. The sun is now pouring golden light upon the cold landscape from a cloudless blue sky and yet the valley down below on the northern escarpment between Knill and Presteigne and beyond on is a sea of impenetrable mist. This is a welcome break from the very cold snowy, dark and freezing weather of a week or so ago. This is a time of brightness, refreshment, and re-energising.

I stand against a tree near the old barn and could easily fall into a melancholic flow of nostalgia about the house that must have stood here and the farmers who lived and worked in this isolated but beautiful location. Instead I just try and listen to the landcape - the squirrels rushing about from tree to tree; the robin that flits cautiously in the hedgerow nearby and the occasional flock of starlings (possibly) that can be heard 'brushing' through the air from field to field - perhaps attracted by the nearby cattle. Later, when I pass back by here I am sure I hear a flock of long-tailed tits not far away.

It was too cold to sit down and write on the spot and I was a little short of time to do so anyway. But the place gave me the inspiration to at least write something when I returned back home to Bedfordshire later in the day. I feel I am loosing the flow of writing and would like to return to discover its power, wisdom, creativity, sense of exploration and exercise of the mind.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Roots

Reflections on a church Sermon and Nehemiah

How do groups of people find belonging? What motivates and drives them to follow a particular action, thought, philosophy, religion or idea? What then happens when they get dislocated, lost or separated from their homes or lives?

My continuing 'sabbatical' from church life is hard as I haven't found another group of people with whom sharing, fellowship, identity and a sense of belonging is strong enough to draw me into their presence. The group of people that is 'church' generates a very strong place of belonging.

Establishing a spiritual community: in church, Truth lies the Bible. Truth here lies in an external paternal God - an external 'being' beyond people. God always seems to be sensed as outside the human body, outside the soul and this could also equate to how nature is viewed and related to. It is an external entity that may have no connection with our lives and who we are. The gap has be bridged in a spiritual sense. Worship in church seems to send praise outward- an external projection of desire, love, intention and conviction. What I am getting at in a rather unsuccessful way is my trying to reconcile a perceived outward direction of worship with my inward/ self-existing within God sort of belief. Something doesn't sit comfortably with me and I can't explain it neatly here.

Fundamental Truth in God would probably be the same as a fundamental Truth in Nature from a eco-theologoical view. There is no separation between the two. Panentheism.

Remember your ancient roots. The roots of Christian worship would have been the original sharing of the bread and wine. Honouring ancesters and their way of doing things. What past foundations do you use as a basis for your life? What identities do you base your faith upon? What is the story in which you find yourself?

"We are all sinners". Must read Original Blessing again - the concept of original sin sits uncomfortably with me. It brings forth a good/bad duality that seems to enhance my feelings of unworthiness, self-annihilation and fragility in the face of perceived superiority/strength. We need redemption from the sin of Original Sin!

Feast of tabernacles - living in tents for a week. A symbol of transition, temporality, the mortal, journeying, using resources wisely, low consumption etc. Very pagan and green. Images of shelters made from branches in woodland came to mind and my 'pilgrimages' I make to Herefordshire to camp out in the wild and find a place of renewal and belonging.w

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Up on Clun Forest

Last weekend I made a trip to Clun Forest right on the Welsh/Shropshire border. I had hoped to spend the time doing more writing than I did as I had planned it as a sort of retreat and a re-energising of my spirit. However, as usual, my precious time away whizzed by and it was easier just to enjoy the presence of being there rather than force anything that didn't want to flow. Here are some notes I made at the time with reflections added upon their write up. I wasn't going to write them up, but I am forcing myself to do so.

It is Friday evening, about 6.45pm and I am up in Clun Forest. I took the afternoon off work and about three and a half hours later I am overlooking the hills and valleys to the north west of Clun. It took me a while to decide where to park the car. It was a bit windy and the forestry tracks seemed to be well used by a variety of visitors and so finding a sheltered and 'safe' place was a priority. I found a place that felt right and cooked a small tin of stew and new potatoes on my gas stove.

Although breezy, it wasn't too cold. It was cloudy with patches of occasional sunshine. The views north were good with distant grey rain showers shrouding patches of the landscape. The last time I came up here was with my Father and that was the last time I would be with him. I remember the fine clear day gave us views right into the farthest distance and we were wondering if we could see Cadair Idris in North Wales.

As I write my notes the sky is clearing a little and the initial hazy moon is now bright in the clearing sky. It must be a full moon about now. The wind is still strong in the tall conifers beside me and I am sheltering in the car to preserve as much of my body warmth as possible. I can almost write by the moonlight, it seems so bright.

I haven't written much formally on this blog for many months though I have tried to get back into journalling. However, writing for 30 to 45 minutes a day is hard work and very time consuming. My mind seems to have wandered away from so much of my 'greenary'. Perhaps it is because work is so much more challenging and taking fulfilling many of my creative needs and energy. Also, I haven't been in places where I have been truly inspired. 'Nature time' seems more rushed and precious these days and the demands of everyday life seem to have taken over. Somehow I feel rather disconnected - and particularly after my permaculture course too, which is a bit odd. A reinforcement of green and ecological thoughts and values seems to have overloaded me and I've had to step back from it all. Bit bizarre and I'm not too sure where I am going... I hope that this weekend will be a turning point but I know I can't force anything - and I am on my own anyway.

I go for a walk. I forget how light it can be when the moon is out. I pass some trees and notice the different sounds that the wind makes in different trees. Conifers give a high pitched whooshing; beeches have a frenetic rustling of leaves; whilst some plain leafless trees in the hedgerow give an almost deep drumming sound.

A large aluminium foil baking tray makes an ideal small fireplace for me and I soon succeed in getting a small fire burning with some charcoal and a few small sticks. I am amazed at how much heat even a small fire gives out and I feel quiet cosy sitting beside it even though the wind is quite gusty. As the flames die to leave the constant changing patterns of the glowing embers in the breeze reflects the cloud moving in front of the moon. Always changing, always creating new patterns.

A group of people walk past - a couple of adults and a few children. Hmm, quite a busy yet isolated spot!

My bike had to sleep in the undergrowth whilst I lay in the car (I'd left the back seats at home). It rained quite heavily in the night and I did manage a few hours sleep. I awoke fully at around 5am with moonlight streaming in to the car. I got up shortly afterwards and went for a walk eastwards along the Kerry Ridgeway. It was wonderful to be out walking by moonlight and looking northwards in the valley towards Montgomery. I enjoyed just walking slowly, knowing that it wouldn't be getting light for a good hour and a half or so. I could thus just 'be', listen to the landscape around me and know there was no need to rush the walk for any reason. The shapes of the trees and the moon produced many wonderful silhouettes and long shadows. I did a good circular walk of perhaps three miles or so and arrived back at the car just as daylight was flooding the hill around me.

I moved the car round to the other side of the hill for breakfast. The wind had died down and I now overlooked the hills to the south west. The sun lit landscape was full of autumn colours and sparkling raindrops coated coated all the grasses after the night's rain. A flock of redshanks (or some other waders) shared a nearby bit of moorland with some sheep.

I went for a superb bike ride this morning. I followed the forest road westwards along the Kerry Ridgeway then dropped down to Anchor. then headed southwest along the ridge of Black Mountain towards Clun, but turned down to Newcastle before a very steep climb back up onto Clun Forest and the car. It was probably around 15 miles or so and actually felt quite an easy ride, but then I did get off and push the bike down or up the very steep hills. Views were superb in the clear autumn sunshine and the coolness of the morning did make it a very pleasant cycling experience.

In the afternoon I drove on to Black Hill just south east of Clun for a walk and then on the Sunday morning I climbed up onto Croft Ambrey. Again this was another warm and bright sunny day with excellent autumn colours and views. It was just good to be out o both days getting some long needed exercise and fresh air. I have felt a bit bogged down recently and here was a rare opportunity to just get out and cycle and walk.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Drumming on the Hills

The past few weeks of beautiful warm summer sunshine has enticed me out to various locations with my drum. In early June I travelled up to Croft Ambrey (in Herefordshire) after work in the hope of watching the sunset over the Welsh hills. I didn't quite manage to get there on time, but I was rewarded with a wonderfully warm and quiet period of space up on the hill top. The May blossom on the various hawthorns on the hillside was superb and as the evening light faded I had a very peaceful, yet expressive time in the landscape I love so much.


Last weekend I happened to be awake at about 3.15am on a restless night and decided that this would be a good opportunity to go and watch the sunrise on the Pegsdon Hills near Hitchin. Not being sure at what time sunrise was, I wasn't too sure I would get there on time as it was already getting light. I strapped my drum to the back of my bike and cycled off through the country lanes, with the moon watching me, and up the hill above Pegsdon. It was a tiny bit chilly, the sky was clear of coud and the views were superb. I found a space to sit just sheltered from the cool breeze and at that moment the bright orange sun just began to emerge from the haze on the distant horizon. I think it was about 4.55am. My drum wasn't really in the mood for playing - being a bit flat in the cold and dampness of the early dawn.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Where have I been?

Here I am in the middle of June and this blog seems so distant to me. I have written so little this year because my energy seems to need to be directed elsewhere.

Work is thoroughly rewarding and challenging and I do enjoy it but it has been demanding and it has taken me a while to settle into the new working environment from a psychological point of view. It has been mentally tiring at times and settling into a balance is taking time. My hands have been troubled with RSI and I am having to work hard with self-physiotherapy to calm things down. This has meant that I have been unwilling to use my hands for typing at home. Thankfully, I am now much better and none of my work has been affected.

Much to my annoyance, I also seem to have been afflicted with periods of deep anxiety and I am hopefully overcoming this with exercise, meditation and self-awareness exercises. It all seems pathetic really as all I am doing is well within my ability but, again, I feel as though I am trying to find a balance.

My back went on me a few weeks ago and so I am trying to get that back in order too.

This seems to have been a Spring of readjustment and mental struggle to the new situation in which I find myself.

My Permaculture Course is superb and I now have only one more weekend in July to complete.

The vegetables in the garden are doing well but I am not sure if I will continue with the allotment as I can't put much effort into it. The garden is easy to micro-manage whereas the allotment is a small drive away and not quite so easy to visit. I will re-evaluate it at the end of the year.

I've been out with my drum to various locations: a drumming group, the hills of Herefordshire, my permaculture course and the garden summerhouse.

Blessings.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Reflection on creative thought

At last the evenings have been getting warmer and, although still a little on the chilly side, I have managed to spend an hour in the summerhouse tonight without shivvering. With a candle, drum and some newly acquired 'Ceridwen'incense I felt able to relax and draw upon some deeply needed inspiration.

I've written a few things in my sketchpad over the past few weeks that somehow haven't made it to this blog. I don't think I have been deeply inspired which feels a little strange perhaps as Spring is beginning to arise all around me. The winter has been long and cold but now the maiden of spring is dancing over the landscape and things are bursting forth - or something like that! It may be because I have started a new job and all the energy and focus that I had to plough into my previous 'existence' is now having a rest and my soul work is taking a back seat whilst I just get on with walking my new path. I'm able to relax a little now in that sense and yet would very much like to redirect my spirtual nature into its new framework and look for a new direction.

I pray for clarity of thought and the ability to just get my brain thinking about things and being more creative. Often it just seems to clog up and stall and can't grasp even simple things or think clearly. Perhaps I am just getting older and need to develop exercises to just unlock more exploratory and creative thinking. Perhaps I need to dig out "The Artists Way" again and do some more daily journalling. It is just discipline though snd creating space in the day to do it. Or perhaps I should develop somthing else; or do more exercise, drink less coffee....

Friday, 26 March 2010

Principles of Permaculture

I have begun my Permaculture Design course which will last for six weekends from now until July.

In the first introductory weekend I learnt about 12 principles of Permaculture which can be applied to any system - ecological, horticultural or social:

  • Integrate rather than segregate

  • Observe and Interact

  • Use small and slow solutions

  • Design from patterns to details

  • Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

  • Use and value renewable resourcesd and services

  • Use edges and value the marginal

  • Obtain a yield

  • Use and value diversity

  • Produce no waste

  • Creatively use and respond to change


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

New Job

I am now almost two weeks into my new job and have so far not regretted moving one bit. Leaving my old work place was very hard because, I think, it was like leaving a small and dark cardboard box in which I had been encased for too long. I had become very emotionally attached to the the people there which was probably some sort of survival mechanism. I know that I had been in that place for a reason: either to learn something new, to be a stepping stone to further my career or perhaps something more subtle - to influence or change something or someone in some way (or to be changed or influenced). I believe there was spiritual reason for me to be in that place but now I almost feel as though I have been released from the rather strange energy that held me there until a few weeks ago.

My new workplace is full of a new and vibrant energy and I am still rather amazed at why I have found myself in such a creative, friendly and welcoming environment. Things may change: there will be challenging work situations and the pressure to be creative and meet deadlines will be tough at times but I feel confident I can grow and be part of the team there. I am surrounded by many very talented designers and illustrators and, as I am always a bit modest about my talents, I can find that a bit overwhelming. I am a bit of a Jack of All Trades when it comes to design and never quite know where I fit.

One of the hardest things to get used to is that I have more free time in the day. I can leave home half an hour later in morning and I get half an hour more at lunchtime. What is also rather pleasant is that there are some footpaths around where I work so I can get out into some fields or parkland and get more exercise and fresh air during the day.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 4

Saturday 6 March 2010
I walk into the valley. I climb down the very steep hillside through the discarded wood and tree stumps of the felled trees to the tiny stream that I can hear way below me. Its source can't be far away, the hilltop rises above me up a narrow and steep-sided valley. A gentle trickle of water, bubbling and gurgling over the shale. I put a hand into the water. it is cold. I cup my hand and lift some water to taste it. It feels soft and smooth with a string earthy taste. I don't swallow it.

It is sheltered down here aware from the cool breeze of the hilltop. The stream is a source of life and energy in the valley. Flowing, following its course, a habitat for the stream-side saxifrages and the damp loving loving mosses that encase the overhanging trees.

What is the central stream that flows through me and my life? What nourishes and sustains me? In this valley is a persistent yet delicate stream- so easily changed by the weather and other environmental or human factors. Yet its function is to carry water through the valley safely. I must take care of the stream in my life. And the sound is continuous, no ebb and flow like the wind. The stream is. It does what is has to do. It is strong and unstoppable. It has to be or else land would flood. It has a continuous physical dynamic to outwork: to flow downhill.

I now have to leave this place and do other things. This has been a a day for writing, for looking at the landscape around me and for framing the big changes that are occurring in my life.

Thank you for this day.

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 3

Saturday 6 March 2010
Landscape. How I love that word. It is a word I use a lot in the context of my journeying and the environment that is laid out for me in my daily walk through life. I'm up on Black Hill now, just a couple of miles from Hopton Titterhill, and looking westwards. Before me is the wonderful hilly landscape of the Welsh borderland between Knighton and Clun. The sun has penetrated the hazy clouds in a few places, otherwise the light is subdued and shadowless. Today I am just going where I feel lead, no distinct plan of action as such. Now I am sitting by the roadside overlooking a revealed valley. Only since a year or so ago has this view been seen once again after many years of being obscured by a tall conifer plantation. The conifers have been felled and now the view has returned again and I could sit here for hours.

What does this view have to tell me about my journey? Revealing, or revelation. Something that was hidden for a long time but which can now be seen. It used to be there in one form or another - before the conifers were planted. Perhaps the view that I see of my life was also, too visible, once a time ago. A momentary glint in the eye of the Divine that set my life alive in the knowledge that it would, one day, be revealed. Now this phase in my life is opening up and I admire the view.

The sound of the wingbeat of a crow brushes across the hillside. A buzzard calls, far below me. I am on the edge of a view - at a vantage point. I am not in the view itself, that will come later.

The earth is still quite dormant and there are still tiny patches of snow in sheltered hedgerow edges. The valley has yet to wake up to the full energy of spring. Perhaps the biggest challenge I will face in my new job is that of dealing with different and more varied people once again. What can my view tell me about how I should relate to the new people I am about to meet?

Peace: hold your peace and know your own confidence and belonging.
Difference: everyone is different. Nature is diverse. It can be good, it can be cruel. Co-existance is a key to survival.
Sounds: just listen, and don't interfere with the balance of what is before you. Think before you upset the balance.
Creativity: is part of the natural energy of nature.
Light: and therefore energy, will come and go. Some days may be pale and shadowless, others will be bright and full of contrast.

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 2

Saturday 6 March 2010
The early morning light reveals a cloudy sky but touches of salmon cumulous where the sun highlights their form. Beautiful, not human sound, just birdsong and the occasional bleating sheep. The peace of this place is awe-inspiring. The dry morning air is clear as I look out form my vantage point of a pile of fragrant newly sawn pine logs down over a valley and on towards Stow Hill. There is a hint in the clouds that reveals a blueness that might promise sunshine later in the day. The air has a gentle cool breeze that moves only the very most delicate of grasses and cobwebs.

From the darkness of last night I am now venturing into the light - with a slow walk up to the top of Hopton Titterhill. This one viewpoint captures my imagination and I watch as the morning light on the hills before me constantly changes the landscape.

I sit in my stillness, trying to focus my thoughts away from the events of the past weeks. Small patches of yellow-gold sunlight make fleeting visits to the hillside just below me - not to any other hill, but to my hill. They last for only a minute or so then disappear, but their light brings colour and warmth to the greyness of the winter landscape.

Hopton Titterhill and Black Hill: Part 1

Friday 5 March 2010

It has taken me nearly 5 hours to drive to Hopton Titterhill in South Shropshire. After busy Friday evening traffic, roadworks on the M1 and at Warwick, a stop at a service station and a generally steady, unrushed and hopefully petrol efficient drive I have finally made it. It is around half past midnight. A cloudy sky means that I can't see any stars but at least it means that the temperature will not get too near freezing tonight. I don't really want to sleep in the car when it is that cold.

A cool breeze gently waves through the tress on the hillside around me and the candle flame flickers wildly in its glass holder. At least it is dry and the wooden bench here feels welcoming. I've been looking forward to meeting it for several days and it is good to be back here again at night. The car park is well sheltered from the wind and I don't feel too cold.

Alone; with my drawing pad, pen and a candle. Just Being in this darkness that awaits the new dawn and my welcome to the landscape.

Today was my last day at my current work. Last week was an anxious time as I handed in my notice and, fortunately, this past week has passed by fairly quietly in the sense of 'if that is what he wants to do then so be it'. I can hardly believe it has happened. Now it is time to put the past three years to one side and begin a new path on my journey.

It feels strange to now be at this table. In the flickering candlelight I am surrounded by dense blackness and I can't make out anything of what is around me. The candle just lights me and my immediate surroundings. A long period of waiting and patience has passed by. I remember the kestrel I wrote about last year and how I distinctly felt it was giving me that word: patience. Now I am in the darkness of leaving. Just a candle flame to light me. Just the thought of the new light that will enter my life tomorrow. I have reached the edge - and now darkness. Almost death: the ultimate change. Here I am, dying to the old and awaiting the resurrection. I am in nature's womb - forming, changing, anticipating. The heartbeat of the candle burning to keep me alive and focused. The darkness around me reaches into the trees, into the sky and into the earth. I cannot see out of my womb, I can only hear the environment around me. I can feel it, through the firmness of the earth beneath my feet and the touch of the breeze upon my cheeks. I can smell the soil and the pine trees. Yet I can see nothing. Like my new job, I only have thoughts and ideas that play with the senses. I didn't bring my drum with me as it doesn't like the cold. Perhaps I should have done. An owl hoots in the woodland a distance away.

I look around, away from the candle light and it isn't ever really truly dark. The tress are just perceptively silhouetted against the grey sky. It is a touch windy and I can hear leaves rustling along the ground and occasionally the pages of my pad get lifted up. I must be careful not to get too cold. A new day awaits.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Change

I have just handed in my notice at work - as I mentioned in my previous blog. It has been a very emotional time. Three things were hard: having been there for three years and only giving my contractual week's notice was not easy; trying to find a way through the politics and management views of my going to a competitor; and having to leave some dear work colleagues to pick up the pieces.

It has been easy for me to loose track of the big picture view that here I am embarking on a new stage in my life's journey. It has been my decision to take this step. I pushed on a door and it opened before me. It is like beginning a walk into a new landscape. I am unsure of what I will find. I have an overall view around me, but what I will find at the level of detail I am unsure. It is a risk and I just pray that this initiation of stepping out of my comfort zone will bring the experience and maturity I need. I wish I could leave my current employer on a totally positive note, but I know that to loose a (hopefully) respected member of staff in challenging business times will not be too favourable for them.

I pray for strength and peace in the next few days as Change becomes my very real and close companion.

Friday, 26 February 2010

A Skylark Sings...

Another fall of snow subtly covers the high ground of the Pegsdon hills. It isn't too cold and although the sky is overcast northwards, on the flatter plain, patches of sunlight brighten the cold winter landscape. A skylark sings unseen in the bleakness. In a vaguely sheltered spot, sitting on a log, I look out at the landscape below me - tired of the long cold winter and dormant nature.

The landscape and I, we both seem to be waiting. Darkness, cold and uncertainty keep close and energy seems hidden and tired. Yet, possibly, change is waiting to greet us when the time is right and the spirit awakes. There may be, yet, unwelcome moments of cold - like this snow - that brings fear, uncertainty and hardship for all. But something is waiting, gathering momentum, gathering energy and awaiting an outworking.

I seem to be following the season of winter closely. I has been a long, dark and cold. I haven't written for several months as somehow my thoughts have been focused elsewhere. But although I have not written, I know that I have been carrying the spirit that is contained within my writing. It feels as though the learning effort that has journeyed with me through my blog is now carrying me though my landscape and into a new place.

I pray for continued blessing and deep wisdom as I travel along my path. The spring landscape is there before me, waiting.

The skylark sings unseen in the bleakness.

* * * * *

This was written a few days ago. Today I handed in my notice to my employer and will start a new job in a few weeks time. It is a very anxious and emotionally challenging time for me. It is about taking risks. I am having to say goodbye to the familiar, to close work colleagues and to a job that I have enjoyed very much. I have decided to move on with the main aim of personal development. Moving on is a risk, but so is staying put. I decided that I could no longer be complacent about my work environment and need to be proactive to seek continued development.

I remember in the autumn of 2008 specifically praying around a campfire with my drum for change. I often feel that things move slowly for me - cycles of a year seem to crop up. Now just over a year and bit later, I am now seeing the fruits of that prayer - so I believe.