Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

 

Pufferfish Mandala

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

In the pursuit of love, the Pufferfish creates beautiful art! A short clip from the BBC’s wonderful Life Story series…

The Awen Alone

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

The Awen  aloneA review by Maria Ede-Weaving of Joanna van der Hoeven’s book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid…

Druidry is a fast growing tradition and whether by necessity or choice, many of its practitioners walk the path alone. Sharing a tradition and its spiritual practices with others can be richly rewarding but it is not for everyone and Joanna van der Hoeven’s latest book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid illustrates that a solitary path in no way diminishes the wisdom and inspiration that Druidry offers.

The book is organised into three sections: the Basics of Druidry, Druidry in Practice and Creating Your Own Path.  The first deals with the history and what Druidry is, examining subjects such as the Awen, the Gods, the Ancestors and festivals. The second delves into practices such as meditation and pathworking, altar creation and rituals, whilst the third gives suggestion as to how the reader might design and walk their own path.

Joanna has already written two wonderful books in the Pagan Portals series published by Moon books: Zen Druidry and Dancing with Nemetona.  Pagan Portals are great little books that serve as doorways to a subject, a starting point for further reading. The Awen Alone is also part of this series and although it is a small book, it is large of heart; Joanna manages to perfectly distil core wisdom in an accessible and perceptive way that loses none of the richness of the subject.

Throughout you get a real sense of Joanna’s commitment to her practice; of the wisdom gained through an honest devotion to discovering her truth.  She reminds the reader that one of Druidry’s greatest strengths is that it encourages relationship with self, community and nature and that this brings its own responsibilities and inspiration. Druidry has no Dogma and this has led some outside the tradition to judge it as a ‘do what you fancy’ spirituality that lacks depth. The Awen Alone challenges this assumption by exploring a Druidry that strikes the perfect balance between acting upon the freedom to discover what Druidry is for the individual whilst sharing core values and principles that give shape to it as a philosophy. Joanna’s approach reminds us that we must move beyond reacting to truly responding and relating, and in this way our practice will remain flowing, flexible and open – enhancing our sensitivity to the changes that we must make, whilst at the same time feeling ourselves rooted in the tradition.

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

As a guide for the solitary Druid or beginner, The Awen Alone can’t be faulted – the reader is in very safe and knowledgeable hands – but in my view, it is much more than a ‘how to’.  Joanna’s book stands on its own as a concise and insightful exploration of Druid philosophy. For me, The Awen Alone helped me to re-engage with my own practice with some renewed enthusiasm and a deeper appreciation and understanding of this path that I follow. Its useful suggestions and exercises are perfect for those new to the Druid path, but Joanna’s depth of understanding and her ability to deliver this in an accessible yet profound way, makes this a book that Druids with many years of experience can learn from.

Joanna’s website can be found here and her blog here. Her books are available here.

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AC/DC TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

GDP_RP_12341Creation_of_life_Hands_by_Leonardo_Da_VinciRecently I wrote a post called ‘Polarity Polarises’ in which I asked whether our use of gender and polarity concepts and metaphors in spiritual practice was really helpful – and whether we should be more circumspect in using them. It was an excellent essay on Joanna van der Hoeven’s website on this same subject that spurred me on to write about the topic, and after posting I discovered that this discussion had been going on elsewhere in forums and on blogs, particularly in the Pagan community. It’s in the air!

This morning it occurred to me that perhaps this questioning of a way of thinking is related to the impact the web is having on our lives. Before the advent of the web, the primary model of power came from something we were in contact with daily – the magic of electricity with its male plugs and female sockets, and its message that power comes from bringing positive and negative into contact. But now we are starting to experience a different demonstration of power – that comes from connectivity, relationship, bringing together many strands as opposed to the power that comes from two opposite or complementary forces meeting.

It’s a significant shift, I think, that is like the ‘Me to We’, Ego to Eco, shift that is occurring for many. It’s a movement in consciousness from ‘You and Me’ to ‘Us’.

There’s an interesting relationship between the worlds of science and spirituality. As new inventions arise, they provide new ways of thinking about phenomena – and so the telegraph and telephone, for example, provided new metaphors for Spiritualism and Mediumship. Both the western core concept of Wicca in the 1950s and the model of guru and chela in the east, rely on ideas of reception and transmission. But today it feels as if the Spirit of the Times is calling for something else, perhaps in addition to, rather than replacing these ideas. It speaks to our recognition of a common identity, a sense of community, a deepening of our experience of humanity.

Does this make sense to you or did I drink too much coffee this morning? I’d love to hear what you think!

 

Zik’r Rocks – Sufi Flamenco Fusion Music

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
Karen Ruimy performing at the Union Chapel last night in 'Zik'r'

Karen Ruimy performing at the Union Chapel last night in ‘Zik’r’

Last night Stephanie and I were whirled into another dimension from a location in London’s Islington, spun around, and deposited back on Victoria’s Platform 15 just in time for the last train to the south coast.

The lift-off location was the utterly extraordinary Union Chapel – a sort of Santa Sophia in trendy north London.

The rocket fuel was a new musical phenomenon: Sufi Flamenco –  song, music and dance woven together to create a magic carpet made from strands of inspiration from Rajasthan, from the Romanies, from the Whirling Dervishes, from North Africa and Spain and the strutting of Flamenco and even the insistent beats of the Ibiza rock scene.

Who has been insane/creative enough to think of this, put it together, and actually perform it? Spiritual author, song-writer and Flamenco dancer Karen Ruimy and Youth – the Producer of Pink Floyd’s latest album and band member of Killing Joke. Youth & Karen have gathered together a group of amazing dancers, singers and musicians, so that last night we were entranced by 12 of them.

What a night! In this clip Youth & Karen speak about the ideas behind the project and you get to see some of the incredible dancing and hear the amazing music:

Are You Eating Plastic For Dinner?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Skyclad

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Nimue Brown

Nimue Brown

Many of you will have heard of Bandcamp, the on-line music store. Talented Druid author and poet, Nimue Brown, has cleverly utilised Bandcamps services by using it to share her beautiful poetry. Poetry has an added life when spoken and this is a great way to present and promote it. Do check out Nimue’s wonderful new collection of poetry Skyclad by listening here.

Skyclad is described as ‘a love affair with landscape, an encounter with the ancestors, a journey towards healing swirled into the tangled memory of a dream.’ Nimue’s website can be found here.

Here is a lovely example of Nimue’s work:

Wind sweeps a rain line, whiting fields,
Then darkening. Sun smears brief gold.
This too shall pass.

A history of light and shadow,
Ever the same
And never the same.
This cyclical everlasting.

And I but a fleeting gasp,
Heart open wide as the vale,
Horizon stretched and soaring high
With buzzard on rounded thermals.

Tears of clouds, soft sun lows,
This too shall pass.
~ Nimue Brown

Key Ideas for Life

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Inspiring key ideas for a spiritual approach to life from Alan Watts:

To Live In This World

Monday, November 17th, 2014

let-go-and-move-on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go

~ Mary Oliver

Confiance en Soi

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Pour mes amis Francophones – an excellent talk in French by Lionel Bellenger

 

Can Meditation Alter Our Body’s Cells?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

mindfulnessThe connection between our thoughts, emotions and the health of our bodies is a fascinating subject. Here is an article by Lisa Winter from the site IFLScience.com  about an interesting study exploring the effects of meditation and mindfulness on the body’s cells:

New Study Suggests Meditation Can Actually Alter Your Body On A Cellular Level

Scientists aren’t quite sure how the placebo effect works. This phenomenon occurs when a patient believes they are getting treatment and their condition begins to improve, despite not actually receiving medication with an active ingredient. A new study has also found that some breast cancer survivors who regularly practice stress reduction techniques, including mindful meditation and yoga, can physically change their cells, despite no longer receiving treatment. Linda Carlson of the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Alberta, Canada is lead author on the paper, which was published in the journal Cancer

Their study participants had an average age of 55 and had survived breast cancer at least two years prior, but were still feeling considerable emotional distress. There were 88 participants in all that had been randomly separated into three groups, with blood samples taken before the start of the 12 week study.

The first group went to weekly 90-minute meetings where they were directed in non-judgmental awareness of the present moment and guided through Hatha yoga, which they also practiced at home each day for 45 minutes. The second group met for 90 minutes each week to discuss their feelings, both positive and negative. The control group only participated in one 6-hour-long workshop about stress reduction techniques. When blood samples were taken at the end of the study, there were some interesting differences between the groups. 

balance

“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time, we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology,” Carlson said in a press release.

Telomeres are protective lengths of protein that exist at the ends of chromosomes. These get shorter after replication and determine how quickly the cell ages. When the telomeres are gone, the chromosome begins to degrade, which is bad for the health of the cell. After the study period had ended, the two groups that had practiced mindfulness and went to weekly meetings had preserved their telomere length from the start of the study, while the control group that did not learn mindfulness had shorter telomeres.

“It was surprising that we could see any difference in telomere length at all over the three-month period studied,” Carlson continued. “Further research is needed to better quantify these potential health benefits, but this is an exciting discovery that provides encouraging news.”

This study appears to suggest that our minds and bodies can affect one another, but it isn’t clear how that actually happens or what factors are actually at work here. The two groups that experienced telomere length preservation both took time to acknowledge stressors in their life, though they went about it in different ways. As the group that mediated also practiced yoga, the physical exercise could have confounded these results and will need to be clarified in further study. The next step in the research will be to see if these results can hold up using a larger study group over longer periods of time, or if preservation of telomeres through stress reduction is only short-term. Additionally, it has not been made clear if these differences in telomere length actually have an effect on the individual’s overall health.