Monday, 28 January 2008

Praying in Trees

My daughter had a conversation at school today that went something along the lines of the following:

"What did you do at the weekend"
"Went to church"
"Did Daddy go with you"
"No, because Daddy likes praying in the trees".

Hmm, I like that but, as a friend said, perhaps I need to be aware of any reputation that may develop...

Journal Keeping

Although I am an illustrator this is the first time that I have placed a picture on my blogsite. This is a page from my journal/sketchbook. My journal goes with me all the time. I love the A4 ring bound plastic covered sketchboks that WH Smith do. The cover is water and mud proof, it folds open conveniently and the paper is OK. I have a pile of around 15 used ones and 6 new ones in my room.

Into the journal goes writing, sketches, thoughts, things to remember, prayers, scribbles and anything else I want to jot down with my pen. I began a few years ago by keeping a purely written journal of several sides of A4 a day. I don't mean a diary, but a journal of thoughts, ideas and exploratory thinking. Now I try and be more creative and write in it whenever I get inspired. Sometimes I will write just nonsense, sometimes bits of poetry, sometimes prayers, sometimes nature awareness stuff. It varies. I might just play with a pen and doodle and see what ideas emerge. I might do sketches whilst out on a walk or in Hitchin Market Square where I love to sit and draw people passing by.

I find my journal a liberating place to explore ideas and thoughts that I find difficult to verbalise or even think about normally. It is like a door that opens to my inner soul to allow it to express itself visually in words or pictures. I do try and set aside some writing time whenever I can. It might be for an hour or so by candlelight in the summerhouse before bed, or early in the morning at a cafe before work. My main aim is to just write. It doesn't matter to me what I write. It doesn't have to make sense, but the freedom to be able to express through the power of the black line is of great comfort and healing for me. When I write I enter, what could be described as, a sacred place.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Dawn Wind Song

Morning bike ride > Luton > Cockernhoe > Ley Green > Hitchin. Journal Notes

Left house at 6pm : no lights [on bike that is], along country lanes : windy : cloudy moon : almost no traffic on road. Once through Cockernhoe in dark : just gliding - almost silently along the road : loose sense of the hills : just flow : a SLOW bike ride : can barely hear tyres on the road : wind in trees : gliding along : natural light : full moon 2 days or so ago : sky just beginning to lighten : I find a gateway into a field with a clump of trees whoose wind song invites me to stop : I lie down on the damp cool grass : it isn't too cold or wet : and I gaze up at the swaying branches silhouetted : the sky lightens with a pinkish tinge : I hear the wind and, as the airport is only a couple of miles away, planes taking off and the smell of fuel in the wind : But I am here, lying : beneath the trees : SLOW, calm, surrounded by the waves of the wind song.

After a busy few weeks and the sadness of my wife's miscarriage, this is my first chance to go out and just "Be" : to be slow, unrushed, where time has no relevance : where I can greet the day and stop : the dark of the night is beautiful : you use different senses : during the day there is almost too much to take in.

Having been inspired by two recent tv programmes Extreme Pilgrim [Peter Owen Jones] and Earth Pilgrim [Satish Kumar] today is a slow day : I just want to do something - walk, cycle etc - but in a way that encourages my sense of the now :being where I am.

[I cycle on, as the sun rises, to find a sheltered place in which to write my journal]

Now I am sheltering beside a bridle path by the foot of a thick hedge : holly, ash and oak : sheltering out of the cold wind with a multitude of layers on : the golden sun is just above the horizon : but I think the clouds will soon mask its light : there is just enough to momentarily highlight the landscape.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

John O'Donohue Remembered

I have very saddened to hear today that John O'Donohue passed away in January. I often mention his writings on this site as they have been a huge source of inspiration to me. They have been to centrepiece of my journey over the past few years and now I will have to treasure his books so much more deeply. All I have to say is "Thank you for helping me discover my path of belonging. I will miss you."

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Christmas Walks

I had been looking forward to my Christmas break for many months and although much of the time did seem be spent with the family and relatives I was able to go for walks at Burrator Reservoir on west Dartmoor and around the nearby Lydford Gorge, and up on the Shobdon and Wapley Hills in Herefordshire. I had high expectations of being inspired and somehow felt let down. I think that because I was so keen to just get out and walk that to actually spend some quality awareness time there seemed a little difficult. I just wanted to see as much as possible and enjoy being away from my office/work.

In some ways what I think has happened was that I gave myself a break that sort of gave me time to just re-evaluate and step back from my normal thoughts. Now that I am back to normality and day to day living I feel invigorated to do more and be more motivated to do various things.

Perhaps familiarity with a landscape enables one to feel more close to it. If you go somewhere you know well and see often, you are less likely to be distracted by it. Then I think it is easier to meditate, think about your connections and do prayer.

Mind you, it was cold out! Spending time sitting for long periods did not seem the easiest thing to do, and I didn't sketch as much as I had hoped I would. But I did, physically, enjoy myself (if not spiritually), by walking, looking, and touching the landscape around me. When I sat on my 'stone' on Dartmoor and the sun appeared for a few minutes for the only time that day. It was beautiful.

The Christian Druid - further thoughts

Following on from my previous blog I realised that a definition of a Druid may be helpful and here is one I found on the web:

Druid (dro̵̅o̅′id)
a member of a literate and influential class in Celtic society that included priests, soothsayers, judges, poets, etc. in ancient Britain, Ireland, and France
Etymology: Fr druide < L druides, pl. < Celt, as in OIr drūi < IE *dru-wid-, lit., oak-wise (< base *deru-, oak, tree + *wid-, know, wise)

The essence of this can be summed up as someone whose life is based round the interaction between people and their landscape, between humanity and and the environment. My desire is not be a formal Druid priest or anything like that, I am mearly saying that they have a model of philosophy and thought that I am interested in.

Of course, one could say that to be a figure of authority, to be a prophet, looking to the spiritual side for guidance, overseeing and standing as an authority figure (rule/judgement) and valuing poetry/myth/parables etc could apply to any religious leader of any faith. I mean even Jesus did that, as do our church leaders, as do Druids.

I am not sure where to go next on this subject so will pause for the moment.

I was mildly surprised, after several months of not blogging, that as soon as I had put up the previous blog, "The Christian Druid", I had an immediate comment! Thank you to whoever wrote it, it felt as though you wrote from your heart and had struggled much in the way that I have done. I am not sure about you, but I feel as if I have imposed a sort of exile upon myself and have isolated myself from a once very loving and caring Christian environment. I am now wondering how to move forwards and find people with whom I feel I can journey more faithfully. I wish you all the best and pray that you will find a path that is supportive and honouring to they way your view your world. Do read something by John Odonohue if you get a chance, I mention him quite a bit on my posts.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Christian Druid

Now, this isn't something you find much about on the web! I almost feel I have to apologise for this blog to my Christian friends and forego any form of justification in writing it. I'll just say "Sorry, I was just exploring the 'occult' and I am now a fallen Christian needing deep prayer and redemption. Forgive me, and don't read on".


I have no need to justify this. This is my personal journey and so here goes...

The Christian Druid, in my vague definition, could reasonably be applied to a Christian with a deep nature based spiritual awareness. Having read around the subject and recently listened to the Podcasts by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids I have been surprised to find that I entirely agree with much of their values and ethics and perspective of the natural world. The following ideas that I adhere to I find very much in common (or that I wish Christianity had) between the two theologies: Nature based/aware, a way of life, not a religion, no dogma, can be monotheistic, mystical, story/myth based, ritual, belonging, soul-based... Having read quite widely around what many people would consider to be part of the 'occult', I have come to understand much of what it stands for and where it has come from.


I am still here. I have not been drawn into deep and dark practices as I have always been led to believe would happen (well, I hope not and I don't want to be too glib about it). I have NOT felt touched by anything dodgy, apart from wanting to understand the differences between the practices and why there is so much antagonism on both sides. To be honest, I feel no need to delve deeper to explore the occult because I feel no attachment to it. I am not going to deny that 'dark' things may exist, but I have no need to go there. The only dark place I have found is my own fear of what I might find. For years I have come across stories of people being saved from the occult and turning to Christianity, now I have realised that there is also a flow in the other direction, of people seeking a wider understanding of their faith. I have never heard their stories until now.

Where I do want to go is to a place where people value and respect the environment at a level beyond anything I have experience so far in church. It's about being willing to think outside the box and learn from other spiritual religions about leading a wholesome, ecological lifestyle built around a Divine concept, prayer, love, knowing who you are, respect and self-development/awareness (how ever you want to undertsand that) in a consumer-based, capitalist based economy that disregards any sense of spiritual life and deep environmental conciousness.

When you begin to walk a path in a mystical way, that hates dogma, that seeks a journey, that respects nature, that honours God, that senses a spirit in all things, that seeks personal responsibility, that likes small forms of ritual.... then perhaps I have a lot to learn from the Druids. With thanks to the internet I know I am not alone in my thoughts.

As Emma Restall Orr writes in 'Living Druidry':
Druidry is an exuberant clebration of nature's currents, its tides and cycles, an intense journey of exploration and discovery in natural science and emotion. It is about the wild energy of being alive and breathing deeply, right where life shimmers and shudders with its own awareness: in the throes of change, collapse, dying, birthing, waking. It is about the stillness in the pause between ebb and flow. Druidry is about finding the beauty of it all, all of it, consciously, wherever we are, in the tranquillity of isolation and in the clutter of the crowd... ...It provides a language with which we can describe our perception and experience of life as something that is more than just physical, yet at the same time it doesn't require us to belive in anything that we cannot perceive or experience

Perhaps I'll research a more detailed justification of this pathway through life and write a paper on it. I hate labels, but it does sound rather exciting to talk of oneself as a Christian Druid. At least it would be a good conversation starter! I'll try it... perhaps...

March 2011 In the light of all the comments that I receive, please note the following: We are on a journey here, and some of us here may have suffered emotional and psychological 'challenges' through unsympathetic Christian teaching. Our faith is one of mystical qualities that seeks the possible and the impossible, not necessarily the black and white. Please respect our thoughts and bring any critique with caution - if you wish to view other people's faiths on the web and bring a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint that is clearly at odds with the ethos of the site that is your prerogative, but here isn't the place for it and they will not be published.

Electricity Free Zone

It was quite interesting the other day when we lost power to the house (and street) for nearly a whole day. I enjoyed it. It wasn't that cold, we cooked on a camping stove and, although we succumbed to going to a friends house to cook our lasagne for tea, it felt quite refreshing not having light, tv or anything else flashing, humming or switching on and off all day long. It was time when all our neighbours met up to gaze anticipatingly down the hole in the pavement dug by various workmen to sort it out.

I decided not to share my positive thoughts amongst the tut-tuts, swearings, threats of someone being sued and mumblings of how awful it all was with no-one able to cook or have heating. Our freezer can quite happily survive being switched off for 18 or so hours with no grumbling, but it seems no-one else can.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

To the Summerhouse, and Sharing

It is a mid-winter's evening and I am off out. I put on a couple of thick warm layers, a scarf and warm hat; gather my sketchpad, pencil case and a torch and begin my walk up the garden path to the summerhouse. I need to be prepared to sit at the top of the garden in our small wooden summerhouse for an hour or so in relatively warm comfort! I light three candles and sit on a cushion and pillow. I have just enough light by which to read, or to write in my journal.

This is a mini pilgrimage I make, not every evening, but whenever I feel the need, usually two or three times a week. As a pilgrimage it involves preparation, a journey and a focus of spirtual intent/desire. I have a path, I have a destination, I have meaning and longing.

It is a special time for me. To sit, away from the sounds of the house and away from the lure of the TV, the computer or my studio. I am can hear the sounds of the townscape around me, but more importantly I can hear, sense and feel the weather. I am outside, touching the wood of the summerhouse, hearing the wind or rain (if there is any) and breathing in fresh air that invigorates.

Sitting away from distraction or, perhaps even more conciously, away from any electrical appliance seems liberating. It focuses the mind upon the page in front of me. Sometimes I might read a book - I believe that some books are just meant to be read outside. More usually I write/pray in my journal which, for me, is the the most fruitful way I can think and express my ideas and thoughts.

All I am doing is going up the garden path to sit in the summerhouse to write. Simple. Yet even a simple action like this is, to me, a source of personal enlightenment and renewal. I feel I am doing something so valuable to my personal journey. It could be my Quiet Time, meditation space, even my altar - whatever words you want to use.

When I mentioned this to Homegroup I am not sure people really understood it or could engage with my way of thinking. I tried to explain it in a sort of thinky, philosophical way, but I didn't seem to carry people with me. I would love to be able to share with people in a respectful, calm, philosophical, 'holy and sacred' sort of way; but a third of the time I struggle to think about the subject in a knowledgeable and wisdomy way, another third trying to vocalise it and another third wondering why I am bothering because much 'spiritual' stuff to me seems an illusion.