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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

The Well of Segais

June 14th, 2018

An enthusiastic Pamela Meekings-Stewart, creator of The Wheel of Segais divination system

I had a great reading yesterday using The Wheel of Segais. This is how its creator Pamela describes it:

The Wheel of Segais is a simple but profound system for understanding the innate nature of the universe and our place within it.  It is my own creation and came to me in a flash of inspiration (awen) supported by over twenty years of study in Druidry (Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, UK), the Four Elements / Four Seasons (Dimension 33, Australia), the 12 Archetypes or Wisdoms, and many years as a Change Management and Career Consultant – “Get a Life – It’s Yours”.

All that knowledge and wisdom came together in a beautiful, simple image that I now call The Wheel of Segais or, sometimes, The Wheel of Inevitability! It allows us to perceive all that we are and all that we need as we experience the turning of the wheel of the year – the Four Seasons, the 12 streams or stages and the Well of Wisdom, the Well of Segais itself, in the centre.

My reading was very helpful and spot-on. Hence Pamela’s enthusiastic gesture in the photo!

The system is profound, elegant and completely in tune with the cycles of Nature. I feel it represents a very real contribution to the human endeavour of finding meaning, purpose and direction in life. Have a look at the website all about it here.

Making Time our Friend and Ally: Tea with a Druid 27

June 11th, 2018

Yesterday I read a post on the OBOD Message Board that talked about the difficulty of finding time for spiritual activities like meditating and studying. It asked: ‘Am I the only one finding it hard to find time in the day to study the OBOD training materials and meditate?’ And of course people piled in saying ‘Me too!’

I think this is a big problem for many people. And it’s not just about finding time for spiritual activities. It’s often about finding time for just living fully too. I wonder why time seems in such short supply for so many of us? I read a quote recently from a Dr. Bradley Willcox, who wrote that: “We in the West suffer from hurry sickness. We try to do more and more in less and less time, and that kind of constant stress can have devastating long-term consequences.” And we all know that stress accelerates ageing and increases the risk of diseases.

I’m going to add my voice to this ‘Me Too’ response, because I’m often battling to find time for everything I think I need to do. So let’s explore this problem together! I’m going to offer you what I’ve come up with over the years, and please share what you’ve come up with.

1. Every time I find myself under stress and thinking, “I don’t have enough time,” I tell myself, “You have all the time in the world.” I know I’m kidding myself at one level, but metaphysically I believe this to be true and this ‘positive self-talk’ does calm me down, and seems to create a sense of having more time. I don’t care if this is an illusion!
2. When faced with overflowing in-trays of snail mail and email, and a long list of things to do, I decide which items to prioritise, then just focus on one thing at a time, do it, and then move on to the next. If I look at it all, I become paralysed – it’s all too much. So I narrow my focus, attend to one thing at a time and plod on. And surprise, surprise, the piles do eventually get cleared.
3. A while back I watched a film called ‘She’s Having a Baby’ and in the closing scene, as the baby is being delivered, the father’s voice-over is heard and the final words of the film are: “What I was looking for was not to be found but to be made.” And I think that’s a good position to adopt in relation to Time. If you are always looking for Time it evades you, it’s always just around the corner. So don’t try to find Time, make it! It shifts you from being at the mercy of it, to being proactive and creative, rather than constantly running after it.

To go deeper now, let me suggest a way of tackling this issue at the spiritual or magical level. We are all beings incarnated into the world of Time & Space – the two dimensions we are constrained in. Lots of us don’t have enough space, let alone time – think of all the poor and dispossessed people in the world – one of our world’s greatest tragedies. But we won’t consider Space today – we haven’t got enough time! Looked at another way, Space and Time are commodities that we want that are often in short supply. Maybe we can reach Peak Space and Peak Time too!

After much struggle over the years, Stephanie and I have enough space – Space is our friend. But Time is still if not an enemy, then at least someone who I have been trying to befriend over the last few decades, and I’m still not entirely sure we’re friends! Of course thinking of Time as our enemy is not a good idea. I want Time to be my friend and my ally. And I guess you do too, so let’s try now to foster this relationship by consciously reaching out our hands in friendship to Time.

In our meditation in the Sacred Grove we slow down and open to stillness. We get in tune with Nature’s rhythm, which feels good: natural and slow. We leave the Grove and come to a slowly-flowing river. We announce to the world around us, to the spirits around us, to ourselves, that we want to be friends with Time, to have Time as our ally. We sit on the river bank and are soothed by watching the water, and the river wildlife. We ask for a blessing from the Spirit of Time. We might wade into the water for this, or it may be enough for us just to sit and be with the river in our own stillness. We return to the Grove to finish our meditation.

One of the benefits of brief meditations like this, is that within these short moments of time we can create for ourselves ‘moments of timelessness’. That’s the value of a spiritual path or discipline – it can help free us from the pressures of Time and Space, if only for a few moments. So maybe that’s a good beginning if you feel under time pressures, just try to dip into timelessness in brief moments as and when you can, and perhaps you will be able to gradually extend these moments to minutes, until each day you are indeed making the time for what you truly want.

The Value of Ranting and the Power of Then: Tea with a Druid 26

June 4th, 2018

Yesterday I announced that I will be handing on the role of Chief of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids in two years time, and it was very heartening to experience the response to that news amongst the gathering of about two hundred of us in Glastonbury Town Hall. And many thanks to John Beckett for his informative article on his Patheos blog here, offering the perspective of someone across the Pond, who was not there for the announcement in Glastonbury, but who read my blog post and watched the video. And thank you, dear readers, for all the kind messages I have received (and to Nicola for her photo of Stonehenge at the dawn ceremony yesterday).
This evening I thought I would rant. I’m allowing myself a bit of therapy. The English tend to be an uptight bunch. We’re not like the Italians. For centuries we have admired stiff upper lips: “Chin up! Keep you voice down. No crying now! Keep calm and carry on!” Well to hell with that! I’m going to tank myself up on more of this tea and I’m going to rant!
Today I’m going to rant about the obsession in spiritual and New-Age circles with the Power of Now. It’s become yet another rod to beat ourselves with. Have you ever caught yourself feeling guilty because you’re not experiencing the Now? Because you are ruminating on the past or plotting some cunning scheme for the future? Yes! That’s the price we pay for focussing too much on one idea at the expense of others. I’m sure Eckhart Tolle would agree with me, but when you rant you’ve got to exaggerate so in that spirit let me blame his fabulous book for this current obsession.
Why did I choose this topic? Because the other day, when I went to see my 95 year-old mother in her nursing home, she said ‘Well, I think I’m making progress.” And this really touched me, and I realised that we are all built to hope, to think we are progressing, even well into our old age.
So, I know about the Power of Now, and the dangers of Provisional Living. I know we waste a lot of time and energy looking back to the past and thinking about the future, but the point is this: it’s not what you do, it’s the way you do it. Sure it’s not helpful to live a life of regret for the past and worry for the future, but it is helpful, natural, beautiful, human, and to be encouraged, to live a life full of the joys of reminiscing and remembrance, and of hope for the future.
And, of course, that’s why we have developed a succession plan for the Order. We haven’t just focussed on the Now!
In the recording of this week’s ‘Tea with A Druid’ I followed my rant with a Sophrology exercise that has a Bardic aim: to celebrate and benefit from one touching, joyful moment in the past.

Announcing a Gradual Transition to a new Chief of the Order

June 3rd, 2018

Today at the Summer Gathering of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids in Glastonbury, I made the following announcement, which I’d like to share with you here:

In two years time – in 2020 – it will be fifty years since I was initiated on Glastonbury Tor, just over there. Eighteen years later, the Order was re-founded and I was asked to be Chief. That was thirty years ago, and these last three decades have been so magical and extraordinary, I could never have predicted them. We now have 25,000 members, gatherings all over the world, and more than 200 groves and seed-groups.

So now is a good time to take stock, to appreciate how far we have come, and to ask how we can ensure the stability and continuity of the Order well into the future.

I take a lot of vitamins. 
I have been involved in the Order for half a century, and I fully expect that in another fifty years time I’ll be standing here, telling you that I was initiated a century ago up on the Tor. But Stephanie and Damh tell me I’m fooling myself, and that we need to have a succession plan – a plan for how the Order will carry on in the future when the leadership has to change. The Order is so important, so precious to so many people, it would be irresponsible not to have a succession plan.

If you wait until the leader of a group dies, you create an unstable situation that has so often occurred in the history of spiritual groups. It can so easily initiate a ‘Moment of Peril’ that risks undermining much of the careful building work that has been done in previous decades. The responsible thing to do is to create a succession plan, and to let everyone know about it, so that the transition from one leader to the next is as smooth as possible. And so we have a plan, and I’m going to tell you about it now.

In consultation with the Pendragon and Scribe, I have already chosen the next Chief, and we have begun a process of training and apprenticeship, which will carry on for another two years, so that in June 2020 we will have – here in Glastonbury – a big party and an installation ceremony, when I will hand over the role to the new incumbent. By then I will have been Chief for 32 years. I will be handing on the leadership of an organization that is flourishing, that doesn’t need changing or fixing, but just needs a steady hand on the tiller while at the same time allowing the Order to grow and flourish in a new phase of its life.

You will probably want to know who has been chosen as the Chosen Chief – that’s what ‘Chosen’ refers to by the way, the next Chief is chosen by the previous one. So I’d like to introduce you now to the next Chief of the Order, who will be Eimear Burke.

Eimear has been a nurse, is a counselling psychologist, and has been a member of the Order for 15 years. I have chosen Eimear because I believe she is completely aligned with and respects the Order’s work and values, and – just as I have done – will continue to build on the legacy created by the Order’s founder Nuinn. Eimear lives in Ireland, but travels to Order events in Britain often. She loves travelling, and is looking forward to attending Order gatherings around the world. She has been running a grove for many years, and you can learn more about her and the grove at www.kilkennydruidry.com

I am really enjoying passing on all that I have learnt as Chief over the last thirty years and I will continue doing this for another two years. Having handed on the role I will continue to act in an advisory capacity, and the course distribution will continue to operate from the Lewes office for practical reasons. Our vision is that Eimear will hold the position from seven to nine years, and then chose a successor, so that she can then join me as a Past Chosen Chief who can advise the new title-holder.

So to finish, let me be absolutely clear. I am not going anywhere. I still remain committed to the Order, to being of as much help as I can, and I am going to carry on talking, writing and making a nuisance of myself at every possible occasion! The difference will be that we will have effected a hopefully smooth transition from one phase in the life of the Order to the next, supporting the membership in the best possible way.

‘A blessing on our bards, sweet-tongued, heads afire with Awen! A blessing on our Ovates, their hearts open to the cry of the wind on the Tor, the deep pulse of the Earth of Avalon, the flowing waters of the Red and White Springs. A blessing on our Druids, bright as flames, solid as stone, joyful as the day is long. A blessing on all our lives and a blessing on the land.’

You can watch an interview I recently conducted with Eimear here:

Out of Your Mind by Alan Watts

May 27th, 2018

Souvenir Press, a great little independent publisher, still growing against all the odds after 67 years, has just published a new collection of Alan Watts essays – Out of Your Mind: Tricksters, Interdependence and the Cosmic Game of Hide-and-Seek.

If you know of Alan Watts’ work you’ll lap this up, if you haven’t yet come across him, the short video below will give you a taste. You’ll find dozens more videos of his talks on Youtube.  And this is what John Lloyd, said about the book on BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs:

“The best book I’ve ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about, and how you should behave.”

Finding your Inner Diva – or Divo!

May 25th, 2018

The King of Swords by Linda Sutton from The Opera Tarot

Let me share with you an exercise I developed for The Opera Tarot, which has recently been published.
All you need is a deck of cards – preferably The Opera Tarot, available from lindasutton.com –  a sound system to play Nessun Dorma on full blast, and complete privacy!

For the Diva or Divo Within

The term for a celebrated opera singer is Diva, from the Italian for Goddess. More rarely the male equivalent is used – Divo – for prominent tenors such as Caruso & Gigli. By connecting it to the God/dess we can sense how the term refers to the divine inner core of the ego: its positive connotations referring to the highly accomplished artist who fulfils their purpose, their mission in the world. But the word has its shadow too, its reversed meaning: a Diva/Divo as well as being loved, admired and respected is often considered temperamental, self-important, difficult to please – the ego in its most negative light.

The perfect piece of music to explore the Diva/Divo in us is the aria ‘Nessun Dorma’. It conveys a feeling of absolute success, finishing as it does with the statement “I will win!” repeated three times.

Eight of Swords by Linda Sutton from The Opera Tarot

In the privacy of your home, allow yourself to completely surrender to this music. Imagine you’re out on the stage of the World, the Universe, your Life, and you are singing out loud. Wave your arms about as triumphantly and operatically as possible as you join in the singing. When the aria finishes, stay with the feelings of elation and victory the aria has brought, and pick a card from a shuffled deck for your strength – your gift to the world: a card that represents or gives an insight into all that can make your proud. Now pick a card for your weakness – your flaw: a card that represents or gives an insight into the mystery of your shame and its hidden gift. Finally, pick a card for the gift this moment can give you.

Look at all three cards now and interpret freely and with generosity to yourself.

The Opera Tarot is Now Available!

May 23rd, 2018

Five of Cups from THE OPERA TAROT by Linda Sutton

Last year I wrote the book to accompany a set of amazing Tarot paintings by Linda Sutton. The cards and book have now been published privately in a sumptious limited edition signed by the artist. I’d imagine the edition will soon be sold out, but if collecting decks is your thing, or if you’ve always wanted to see the themes of Opera and Tarot united, there’s still a chance for you to get a deck.
Here’s a description of the deck and how to obtain it:

The Opera Tarot with paintings by Linda Sutton and text by Philip Carr-Gomm invites us to explore the challenges we face in life by gazing on to the stage at moments during some of the most famous performances in the operatic world. We see Pavarotti and Dame Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas and Placido Domingo on stage in the world’s favourite operas, and we also visit less well-known operas and performers to broaden our knowledge and deepen our experience.
This unique Tarot deck will surprise and delight Tarot enthusiasts and will introduce opera lovers to the exotic world of divination that they have already seen portrayed on stage in Carmen or La Traviata.

Containing 80 tarots cards (including two alternatives) measuring 13x9cms, printed on 350gms card. Each painting printed in full colour, depicting a person or situation in opera. The deck includes two books with meanings and explanations, one in English, the other translated into Italian.
This is a high quality deck, with an outer slipcase case 14×10.5x6cms. Rose-gold leaf writing on inner and outer boxes. Rose-gold edges to cards and backs. This edition, signed and numbered by the artist, is limited to 1000 copies. Price £65 each. Postage & packing to a UK address: £5 for one or more copies. Europe: £15 for one or more. 10 copies or more will be sent carriage free, worldwide. To order or enquire, go to lindasutton.com.

How can we develop and refine our perspective? Tea with a Druid 24

May 21st, 2018

Our perspective determines so much of how we feel, think and behave: ‘Attitude is Everything’ as someone once over-stated! How can we develop and refine our perspective? How can we stop seeing life only within the echo-chamber of those whose experience and opinions are identical to our own? In this session of ‘Tea with a Druid’ I talk about applying the analogy of binocular vision to the way we see life and how this idea can be harnessed in our spiritual development (In the video I use the term bi-focal. I actually meant binocular as opposed to monocular – it had been a long day). Buddhism and hydrology, a Jesuit nun, and the value of Dentist waiting rooms all get a mention!

Kozmick

May 18th, 2018

Honorary Bard of the Order Arthur Billington – in his alter persona as ZeeZee Birmingham – joins forces with family members & other top musicians to serve up a succulent concoction of songs on his new album Kozmick. Some of the material is self-penned and all of the songs are guaranteed to get a Druid crowd going! Many of you will have enjoyed Arthur’s new take on the blues at the OBOD Gatherings. Expect soaring strings, witty arrangements, some surprises & of course that unique vocal!

The album Kozmick is available from iTunes where you can preview the songs too, or you can email Arthur at zzbirm@gmail.com to buy a CD!

It’s Trying that Counts – Not the Result: Tea with a Druid 23

May 14th, 2018

Every year The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids gives a scholarship for original research into Druidry and related subjects. This year’s recipient of the Mount Haemus Award is Dr Dana Driscoll, whose contribution can be read here. In this evening’s ‘Tea with a Druid’ I focus on one of her key findings – that the Order’s promotion of creative expression, through Eisteddfodau, differs significantly from the traditional approach where the stress is on the final ‘product’ – the performance and its excellence. Instead we focus on the joys and benefits of ‘trying’ rather than ‘accomplishing’: on the process rather than the product.
This idea can be applied to many other areas of life: by removing the competitive, perfectionist impulse, we can encourage creative expression within each of us, and revel in the ‘Now’ rather than the ‘Maybe in the Future’.
This reminds me of the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicot who proposed the idea of the ‘Good Enough Parent’. By accepting that we can be ‘good enough’ rather than trying to be ‘the best’ or ‘perfect’, we become more contented, more human as opposed to driven, and perhaps even better parents. What if we apply this idea to our spiritual lives? Let’s have a ‘Good Enough Meditation’, in which we accept whatever we are experiencing, instead of wishing it was better!