Just back from a great weekend at Beaumanor Hall, just outside Leicester. About fifty members of the Druid and Dharmic communities met together at an annual event called The One Tree Gathering where we share rituals, activities and information about our different cultures. It’s always a very joyous event, with much laughter and fun but also with serious spiritual and intellectual aims. In a world riven with conflict and misunderstanding, it feels important to make these inter-cultural and inter-faith connections. This year we explored the world of the bee colony and what it could teach us (in an amazing interactive way!) we watched a film about the connections between Latvian paganism and the Dharmic traditions, heard talks, including one on Hindu identity, held an Eisteddfod around a bonfire with an enactment from the Mahabarata,
chanting and story-telling, explored the trees and plants growing at Beaumanor Hall, and experienced a ‘Druid Nidra’ – Yoga Nidra within the Sacred Grove. And more… so we did a lot in two days! The photos below will give you a feel for what it was like, and I’ll paste in here text and audio of a short 12 minute talk I gave at the beginning of the weekend, and a recording of the Nidra meditation itself, since a number of people asked me to pop it up so they could experience it again.
TALK FOR THE ONE TREE GATHERING AUGUST 2017
(the audio differs slightly from this text)
Welcome everyone! The One Tree Gathering was born eight years ago and here we are at our sixth gathering, or tenth if we include our informal meetings in India.
It feels so right to be gathering at a spot where one of the oldest and most beautiful yew groves in Britain is situated. The sacred grove is a place of spiritual gathering at both ends of the Indo-European arc and we can trace its use from the old yew groves of the Druids in Ireland and Britain right across this arc – via the famous oak groves of Dodona of the classical world in Greece, via the groves of cedar in Lebanon, and all the way to the sacred groves of India.
The great Tirthankara of Jainism, Mahavira, and the Buddha both famously gained enlightenment beneath trees, and the tree is one of the most revered symbols in Druidry. This is why we called our project ‘One Tree’ – not only in recognition of the shared sacredness of this symbol but because it symbolises beautifully our guiding idea of a shared origin: ‘One Tree, many branches’. This offers a simple and natural way in which to express the idea that unity and diversity are inextricably connected.
The One Tree Project has two aims: one social and cultural, the other scholarly. We have been successful, I believe, with the social aim of bringing us together as individuals and communities, and later this weekend we are going to hear of another initiative in this regard: a young people’s exchange programme. But we have not been so successful in our second aim of fostering scholarship regarding our common origins and the connections between our spiritual traditions. So let me take this opportunity to encourage any potential scholars who are hearing or reading this to get in touch. We are able to offer a scholarship of one thousand pounds for rigorous academic research in this field, so if this interests you please email Maria at firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire further.
A key idea in Druidry is that the truth is often found through an exploration of triads – three principles that force us to look deeper than the opposition often expressed by dyads. I’d like to suggest that we now introduce a third aim to our project. Behind both our thirst for intellectual knowledge and for social and cultural exchanges, there exists – I believe – a more fundamental aim to our coming together, and that is a common quest for a shared spirituality, for a philosophy of life and a way of spiritual practice that draws on a common source and that we see reflected at one end of the Indo-European arc in the Dharmic traditions and at the other end in the Druid and Celtic traditions. This does not mean abandoning our inherited culture or our allegiances to any one spiritual path, instead I’m suggesting that we simply state openly what is already an accepted aim in our gatherings, an aim which is essentially spiritual. I think the reason most of us are drawn to this project is that we are seeking to grow through weaving together strands of inspiration from East and West that speak to our hearts and souls.
Now this may seem an impossible vision, an impossible idea to realise in practice, but I’d like to share with you a recent discovery. I have here a book by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Jack Harrison, published last year, called ‘The Celtic School of Yoga’. As you can see, it is full of the most beautiful photographs. It is peppered with inspiring and lyrical quotations from sources both eastern and western, and the text offers a rationale, inspiration, and practices that can form the basis of a spiritual practice informed by both ends of the Indo-European arc. Let me read an excerpt to you…
RECORDING OF THE TALK
RECORDING OF THE ‘DRUID NIDRA’
You can find out more about Yoga Nidra and listen to more nidras at the website of the Total Yoga Nidra Network.