Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Memory Stone



The Bird whispered to the Stone
The Stone whispered to the Earth
The Earth whispered to my Heart
My Heart sang out to the Universe

The Universe kissed the Stars
The Stars weaved a spell around the Moon
The Moon took a poem into the Sun
The Sun sparked the sky.... and they both bloomed

The Sky flew down to the Trees
The Tree whispered to the branch
The branch let go of the Leaves
The Leaves all fell into my Hands..

I shall never be alone again
The Spark of Earth is the dust and sand
Swirling up into the Winds
Bringing me back Home Again...

Nature is a Prayer of Peace
My tears have gone
My Soul released
I am like the bird flying so high
Carrying a Stone in the After-life

When I am ready the stone will Fall
Back into the Forest's Arms
A Bird will find the Breath of my Poem
waiting inside............. like flesh and bones

A Mist will rise up from the Stone
Whispering the Memory of my Prose....
Blackbirds will cry and sing my Song
Like the Earth ..life will carry on

Seeds will grow... and bloom and bend
The Trees will rise without End
Whenever you find a Memory Stone
laying in the Forest ...........all alone
Hold it to your heart........... and Listen close
You will hear the sound ........of my Soul

Know it is me Flying Home.
Know it is me Flying Home
Know it is me Flying Home..

I am Home.

*
Poem
The Memory Stone 
and Image 
by 
Victoria Pettella




Saturday, February 1, 2020

Imbolc, the Promise of Spring and the Light to Come…



Brigid,
eternally good woman,
bright, golden,
quickening flame.

May she carry us
to the eternal lands.
She, radiant fire
of the sun.

11th century
Irish Liber Hymnorum

February 1st honors St Brigid, the fifth-century nun from Co Kildare reputed to have performed miracles and healed the sick. The legend of Brigid stretches back to pre-Christian mythology, when she - as daughter of the chief of the gods - was a goddess herself. 
February 1st is when many modern Pagans celebrate the fire festival of Imbolc sacred to the Gaelic goddess Brigid of Ireland. Imbolc signifies the spark of the light of Spring in the heart of Winter and so the fire at Imbolc symbolizes the returning light and the coming of Spring. It is a time for re-connecting to the slower and deeper meaning of natural rhythms of the seasons.

Brigid was a fire Goddess, patroness of poets, seers, dairymaids, midwives, new-born babies and smith-craft; she was the heart and fire of the hearth that was the centre of home and community. She was invoked for protection in childbirth and agriculture. As the Muse and protector of the poet-seers, her visions, and prophecies were associated with the transforming alchemical fire of change.


With the arrival of Christianity, Imbolc became known as Candlemas, and was associated with the Virgin Mary emerging from her 'seclusion' after the birth of Jesus and presenting the newborn Christ in the temple. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells and sacred flames, therefore fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
                                                         
In Ireland, the ancient Celtic stories of the Goddess gradually merged with the early Christian tales of the nun and abbess who became St Brigid - a powerfully inspired woman, born in the mid-fifth century. Brigid started several monasteries, including Kildare Abbey at which the eternal flame of Brigid burned. For many centuries, there were 19 virgins (originally priestesses and later nuns) who tended Her eternal flame at Kildare. There they are said to have sung this song (until the 18th century): 

"Bride, excellent woman,
sudden flame,
may the fiery, bright sun,
take us to the lasting kingdom."

The contemporary Brigidine Sisters continue the tradition of St. Brigid in several parts of the world, saying: "There is mystery at the heart of what holds us together, expressed in shared symbols, stories and experiences."


Brigid is said to walk the earth on Imbolc eve.
Before going to bed, each member of the household may leave a piece of clothing or strip of cloth outside for Brigid to bless. The head of the household will smother (or “smoor”) the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, they look for some kind of mark on the ashes, a sign that Brigid has passed that way in the night or morning. The clothes or strips of cloth are brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection. 


As Brigid represented the light half of the year, and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence was and still is very important at this time of year. 


May Brigid bless your home.

*


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Simple Thanks


Years ago I remember reading the autobiography of an enlightened ‘master’ of the previous century. This particular person had, and still has, an international following of devotees and is a name recognized by many; although in view of the direction of this particular post I won’t name him here. In his book this person describes how he sat meditating deeply upon various subjects, and was so immersed in his reverie that only afterwards did he realize that in that time his granddaughter had dutifully brought him no less than twenty-seven cups of tea.

Although it is now a long time ago that I read about this incident, I find that my reaction now is the same as it was then. The ‘master’ claimed that he was so absorbed in his reflections that at the time he did not even notice his granddaughter’s presence. But (I thought) if he was conscious enough to drink the tea then he also was conscious enough to thank his young granddaughter for her kindness. Simple thanks are not mere commonplace things. We might consider the thought that the angels perhaps place more value in a single sincere 'thank you' to a dutiful and well-intentioned granddaughter than in a whole day spent meditating about them.


Life is not a comfort zone. We are here to experience what life is, and how it feels. If we are to grow then often enough we will be confronted with a situation which we cannot get ‘around’, but only ‘through’. It is a natural reaction to shy away from something which we might find painful, but life would not consider us to be diligent students if we simply tried to skip the lessons which we felt were too painful to follow. If we can thank our lucky stars for granting us strokes of fortune or what seem like ‘heaven-sent’ opportunities, why should we not equally give thanks for reversals of fortune or what we might feel are unjust setbacks?


Only being grateful for those things which seem to work in our favour, and begrudging those things which seem to work against our own best interests, is perhaps showing our ingratitude for everything which happens to us, because if we only appreciate the good, then we are only showing our appreciation for half the story – and half of what life has to offer us. Perhaps we need to regain this ‘other half’. Perhaps we need to do what for many is unthinkable or even absurd and give thanks for misfortunes as well, for misfortunes perhaps offer us the chance to grow even more than those fortunate times – if only we do not shy away from experiencing them.


There is another aspect to the story which begins this post, and that is the aspect of personal ego. A master who openly declares that he was so deep and so long in meditation that he was able to drink twenty-seven cups of tea without, apparently, being aware that he was doing so, comes uncomfortably close to ‘bragging rights’ (as we would now call them). It is almost as if this ‘master’ is saying to us, his readers: “Look how great I am at meditating!”


But supposing that instead he actually had broken off his meditations to give his devoted granddaughter his full attention, and show his appreciation of her presence, even of her actual existence, then perhaps I might now be saying of this person: “Look what a loving soul he was.” 


That is how much simple gratitude matters, and simple thanks as well.


Because, as the kind voice of Thich Nhat Hanh once said: "You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy, for even just a few moments ago this cup of tea had not yet brewed properly, and very soon it will be too cold to enjoy."


So drink now, my friend, for this delicious cup of tea truly exists only in this precious present moment!





Sunday, January 5, 2020

I Have No Name


I have no name,
I am as the fresh breeze of the mountains.
I have no shelter;
I am as the wandering waters.
I have no sanctuary, like the dark gods;

Nor am I in the shadow of deep temples.
I have no sacred books;
Nor am I well-seasoned in tradition.

I am not in the incense
Mounting on the high altars,
Nor in the pomp of ceremonies.
I am neither in the graven image,
Nor in the rich chant of a melodious voice.

I am not bound by theories,
Nor corrupted by beliefs.
I am not held in the bondage of religions,
Nor in the pious agony of their priests.
I am not entrapped by philosophies,
Nor held in the power of their sects.

I am neither low nor high,
I am the worshipper and the worshipped.
I am free.
My song is the song of the river
Calling for the open seas,
Wandering, wandering,
I am Life.

*
 Jiddu Krishnamurti 
from the book "The Song of Life"

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Dweller Within


We can only reach the end of a difficult road or a dark night of the soul by accepting that we must grow according to our own rhythm, our own nature - seriously and calmly; when we try to embrace the questions without forcing the answers. This means, that to receive the Divine Voice - the Dweller Within - we have to make ourselves the interpretor of her silence, lending her our own breath when hers is no more then an inaudible and weak sigh.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Essence of Desire




I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all desires I have ever known
just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
all desire:
To hold beauty
in my soul's
arms.

*

John of the Cross


Painting by Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Art of Peace


Two and a half millennia ago in China a military strategist called Sun Tzu wrote a book about such martial matters. Sun Tzu called his book The Art of War, and he intended it as a guidebook for those who wished to learn and to put into practice the ways of war outlined in his text. The universe is all about balance, and if there exists such an idea as war being an art and an apparently worthy subject for study, should there not also somewhere exist an ‘Art of Peace’; a martial study that is equally committed to practicing techniques whose intention is to ensure that peace and the pursuit of peace has at least as much of a voice as more warlike actions?

Two of my children, brother and sister, have practiced the Japanese martial art of Aikido. I must admit that, had I been younger and enjoying better health, I would have liked to have practiced with them! Frequently enough we might find ourselves in situations which make demands upon us, upon our sense of focus and concentration, and we might feel that our inner peace has been taken from us. It is in such situations that Aikido could come to our aid. Aikido is relatively modern, and was developed over the period between the 1920’s and the 1960’s by Morihei Uyeshiba, who is often referred to by his title of O-Sensei, meaning ‘Great Teacher’. In practice it places an emphasis on dynamically using one’s own energy to resist any potential attacks from others. In its essence it is therefore a strategy for defence rather than one of competitive aggression, but Aikido offers us more than simple self-defence techniques.

In evolving Aikido, O-Sensei employed a spiritual fusion originating from his interaction with the Oomoto-kyo (‘Great Source’) religion, whose leaders have been predominantly female. To this O-Sensei added streams of spiritual teaching stemming from both Shinto and Buddhism. ‘Aikido’ can be translated as "the way to union with universal energy" or "the way of unified energy". Another common interpretation of the Japanese characters is “harmony, spirit and way”, so Aikido can also be taken to mean "the way of spiritual harmony" or "the art of peace". And so in O-Sensei’s Aikido we have found our countering martial equivalent for Sun Tzu’s The Art of War! And there is one more layer to add to this spiritual mix.

The Japanese word for "love" also happens to be pronounced ‘ai’. In later life, O-Sensei emphasized this interpretation of ‘ai’. In his quest for a less aggressive approach, O-Sensei received a divine inspiration that led him away from the violent nature of his previous martial training, and took him instead towards a "spirit of peace". O-Sensei ultimately said that the way of the warrior is the "way of divine love that nurtures and protects all things", and this surely is the ultimate meaning of such a practice: that the way of a true warrior can as equally, and perhaps even more significantly, be one which practices peace.




Painting by Matsubayashi Keigetsu

Monday, September 2, 2019

Beauty and the Beast




I remember at a film festival watching Jean Cocteau’s classic version of this famous fairy tale and being unexpectedly disappointed at the end when, transformed through Beauty’s love, the monstrous but endearing Beast became the tiresomely-handsome prince! The tale endures because the lessons which it contains are so readily accessible: true love sees beyond outward appearances, and love is about acceptance of the other for who that person really is. These truths weave their way through the story, and we recognise and respond to them, and so keep the tale fresh and alive through the generations. But is it still possible to discover new truths in the tale?

Some 40 years ago, a deranged Hungarian stood in front of one of the most beautiful works of the spirit which art has created. Without warning, he leapt at the marble statue and dealt it repeated blows with a hammer, smashing off the left arm, and leaving the face severely damaged. Shattered fragments of Michelangelo’s Pieta lay strewn across the floor of the Vatican before staff and shocked onlookers could react. It took more than five months just to collect and identify the various fragments – one tiny chipping being identified as the eyelid of Mary, who in the statue holds the body of the crucified Christ, her son.


Why did this man commit such a terrible act of destruction? Even given his apparent mental instability, why destroy such beauty? The principal damage to the marble was directed, not at the crucified body which she supports, but at the figure of Mary. But Michelangelo does not show us Mary’s features contorted with grief, as was customary with a portrayal of the Pieta. Instead, her features seem to embody a transcendence which lifts both her and us beyond the greatest pain of the soul which a mother – and specifically this mother – has to endure: a manifestation of beauty which for one man apparently proved unbearable.

It seems that it is not just the acceptance by Beauty of the Beast which should concern us, but the reverse. We are at times the Beast who needs to accept a transcendent and confronting Beauty. In Afghanistan the Taliban, driven by religious fanaticism, reduced with dynamite the millennia-old serene statues of the Buddhas of Bamiyan to broken rubble. Many other examples of such destruction of created beauty are provided by history. What is beautiful must, it seems, be destroyed for one reason or another. And such destruction is not limited to the created works of artists both known and unknown. An idyllic valley is flooded to make way for a giant dam. Whole forests are cut down and reduced to waste land, or for housing development. The natural world around us, the most beautiful treasure which we have in our care, is ransacked, either for its resources or in the name of a dubious progress.

It is as if the human soul is torn between that soul’s need for the experience of beauty and an equal need to destroy it. In the story of Beauty and the Beast we all recognise the inner work to which Beauty has to commit herself before she is able to accept the appearance of the Beast. But what tends to be overlooked is the equal commitment which the Beast needs to make in order to accept – and to allow to exist – the soul-healing appearance of Beauty.






Photograph courtesy of the Palace Theatre in Devon, UK

Sculpture of Michelangelos Pieta



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Aho Willow, Tree of Love



Aho Sacred Tree of Life,
The root of every tree,
Thank you for giving
The gifts you give to me.

Aho Standing People,
From you I will learn,
To keep my roots well planted,
Yet reach for Grandfather Sun.

Aho Willow, Tree of Love,
Teach me to bend,
Till I come full circle,
Each relation as my friend.

*

 From The Sacred Path Cards, Standing People, by Jamie Sams

*

Standing by my Weeping Willow October 2017,
shortly before I became ill.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

And God Be With You


Power of raven be yours, 
Power of eagle be yours, 
Power of the Fiann. 

Power of storm be yours, 
Power of moon be yours, 
Power of sun. 

Power of sea be yours, 
Power of land be yours, 
Power of heaven. 

Goodness of sea be yours, 
Goodness of earth be yours, 
Goodness of heaven. 

Each day be joyous to you, 
No day be grievous to you, 
Honor and compassion. 

Love of each face be yours, 
Death on pillow be yours, 
And God be with you.

*

This prayer comes from the Highlands of Scotland, 
recorded (in Gaelic) more than one hundred years ago.