Nature speaks

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Very mixed weather in Ireland this week,  snow on Wednesday followed by warm sunshine on Friday. Our experience too can be mixed, with encouraging  moments at times and moments when discouragement reigns

But patiently, underneath it all, something emerges and we learn to let go…

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin

Be firm like a rock

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This prayer is attributed to Saint Patrick, when he was in danger of being ambushed by the High King,  Lóegaire mac Neill.  To defend himself he takes in the energies associated with different elements of the natural world. The early Celtic Christians developed their inner life through paying attention  rather than seeking direct visions. They cultivated this skill, rooted in the body, tuning into the 5 senses, or as they said, learning to play  ‘the 5 stringed Harp’.

I bind onto myself today through the power of heaven!

The Light of the Sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendour of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of the wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

St Patrick’s Shield, 8th Century

How can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these –

the untrimmable light of the world, the oceans shine

the prayers that are made

out of grass

Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Stop forcing life…. observe and let it emerge


A nice simple description of what meditation is, but also what the correct position towards life is:

It’s more for me as with going into a forest:
if you sit quietly for a long time,
the life around you emerges.

Jame Hirshfield

We are always in transition


In the old Celtic/Gaelic calendar February 1st is the start of Spring, which, in the very mild winter we are having this year, seems right.  It was the Celtic feast of Imbolc,  falling midway between the winter and spring solstices, a celebration of fertility and growth involving the lighting of fires. In the Christian calendar this became Lá Fhéile Bríde, St Brigid’s Day, and maintained some of the same fertility themes in the folk traditions.  Similarly today, the feast of Candlemas, saw the blessing of candles for use in the home. It would seem that there was a need for people to remind themselves of warmth and light at this halfway point, as a reminder that new growth will soon be here.

At different times, I too find myself at midway points, not quite sure where I am arriving, but too far away from where I started from to recognize it and go back. We have no overall map for this journey; we may not even have a candle, lose our sense of direction and easily get lost. As Dante found, it’s as if we are “midway in this way of life we’re bound upon …. in a dark wood, where the right road was wholly lost and gone”. The trick may be to work with the experience of being lost  without believing the story that we actually are, not letting “how I feel” become the story of “who I am”. This keeps our energy joyful on the journey, not hooked by stories of where we should be. 

Things are always in transition if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we would like to dream about.  The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Hard times.

Sunday Quote: Listen

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Very mild weather in Ireland these days. Even the daffodils are starting to bloom. Quiet signs of growth and hope everywhere. Better to listen to these than to the angry voices all round.

The silence of creation will speak louder

than the tongues of men or angels.

Thomas Merton

photo paul gilmore

Not rushing to fix ambiguities


The period between Christmas and New Year has a distinct tone and  a change of rhythm. There is an intensity about the Christmas period which can stir us up; to add to this we will soon be bombarded by the messages of New Year resolutions and dramatically  fixing our lives. So one or two posts about how to deal with this time, when the temptation is often to make abrupt changes in the face of the different parts of our lives.

There is a certain type of uncertainty which is just part of being human, and which we cannot control, such as that which comes from illness. This fundamental ambiguity – the unsatisfactory nature of life and of circumstances  – is always there in the background. It can be accentuated at periods like Christmas, and we intensify our efforts to get solid ground. So the dilemma is how to live wholeheartedly as adults in the realization that some elements will always be displeasing and we are never fully going to get it all together. How can we hold different parts together  – “manage the grey” – when we prefer things to be simply black or white: 

Most of us are uncomfortable when things are undefined, when things are not clearly to or for, up or down, left or right, or right or wrong. But the deeper truths always take time to reach us, and it is our job to enter a practice of waiting openly – which involves enduring the tensions of not-knowing. The truths that matter require us not to form opinions or beliefs hastily. On the contrary, we are asked to allow time to surround us with the Wholeness of life, to take the time required for the paradox of truth to show itself. It seems that the practice of not-knowing begins with a trust in the unnameable space that holds us, in the mysterious atmosphere in which we all live. That seems to be the true space of listening and learning, where our brief experiences of life in its totality, whether harsh or calm, will not fit into our tidy little maps of perception.

Mark Nepo