“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Cathedrals and Cuckoos

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 
When the cathedrals of commerce are open, but the actual cathedrals are closed, and I sit in my safe, white, garden, listening to my neighbours mowing their lawns more often than lawns need to be mown, because they have literally nothing else to do and being able to go to the garden centre or fucking IKEA is something to look forward to, and I can sit and have tea in the garden, and comment on how beautiful the birdsong is in lockdown, and this morning I smiled when I heard the first cuckoo, and people are tut-tutting at the burning and looting of property destroyed in real and righteous rage against yet another murder, yet another dead brother, amongst all the other dead sisters and brothers, and people are wondering when are things going to 'get back to normal' and this was never normal, none of it is normal and I don’t know what to say, or what to do with the rage and I have been silent and silenced by my own utter not-knowingness and by shame, paralysed by my part of this whole sick, mechanised, brutalising system that literally only functions because some lives matter more than others and a man holding a Bible that he has never read makes threats against his own people, and another man lies to his people, and in some hearts, many hearts, this is OK and I fear for those hearts, I fear for those souls and the souls of all of us and I don’t know if this is a prayer or a protest or even what the difference is any more.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020


I tentatively opened up the Blogger window this morning. Words have been swirling around my brain for days (or is it weeks?) 

There is no poetry. I have a feeling that will arrive sometime in the aftermath. I know I will resist the urge of other poets to write about the virus. They will think the same of other poets. It's what poets do. The more obtuse and off-point we can be, the better the poetry. Or so we imagine.

We are, however, surrounded by words. Constant streams of them. Words of fear. Words of Hope. Words of anger. Expert, and not-so-expert advice. 

A million opinions. 
I think...
I think...
I think...

Thinking is what humans do best. Thinking has won us our advantage, and our weakness. Maybe our downfall.

Thinking seeks reasons,
conjures demons,
creates Gods. 

Thinking manufactures conspiracies.

And it IS all a conspiracy.

Conspiracy - From the Latin Conspirare: To breathe together.

We are, all of us, every single one of us breathing the same air. This same complex, miraculous just-right life-supporting blend of molecules:

  • Nitrogen 78.09%
  • Oxygen 20.95%
  • Argon 0.93%
  • Carbon Dioxide 0.04%
  • Some other gases
  • Some water
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. 

Some of us are also breathing in 

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen Oxide
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • Particulate Matter
  • Ammonia
  • Ozone
(All air is equal. But some is more equal than others)

There is much - or maybe nothing - to be said about a virus that literally takes our breath away.

You think it has meaning?

Meaning-making. That's another thing that thinking does.
For example:

Spirit -  from the Latin Spiritus. From the same root as Spirare: To breathe. 

Conspire: To be united in spirit?

It IS all a conspiracy. 

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Meditation on Sound - Being with the Known and The Unknown

Today I took it outside (socially distancing doesn't mean "staying indoors!")

Here, I offer a meditation on sound. An exercise in attentional awareness. You can do it indoors of course, but outdoor sounds offer am additional richness of soundscape - and fresh air!


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The Breathing Body - Breathing Practice & Meditation

In this video,  I guide you through an embodied breathing practice and meditation that follows the flow of the breath through the body - firstly focusing on the physical sensations of the breath, and then moving into an imaginative journey tracking the journey of oxygen molecules. Part of this week's offerings on 'Being with the Unknown'  essentially by practicing being with the known (in this case the breath)

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Earth Connection Meditation - Being with The Unknown (and the laundry!)

Here is my second installment in "Being with the Unknown" 

In this video, which also features my drying laundry (keeping it real here folks!) I offer a  simple embodied practice for deepening into our connection with the Earth and our relationship with gravity as a dynamic conversation. 

We can feel into awareness of our connectedness to the Earth in different ways: Physically, as literally the ground we stand/sit/lie on; Spiritually, as Mother/Home/God; and energetically as our sense of safety, survival, and groundedness (Root Chakra) I don't dwell too much on the esoteric however in this meditation which is very much about acknowledging the physical connection. 


Monday, 16 March 2020

The Unknown and The Interim Time

After a fairly lengthy break for most forms of social media - apart from sharing pictures of Ralph on Instagram (he is adorably Instagrammable) I thought it might be an idea to share some thoughts and practices to help us through this time of not knowing. It keeps me out of mischief during this time of physical distancing and will, hopefully, be of benefit.  

I wondered where I might start and then this morning, I got an e-mail from a colleague asking for resources that we can share among our yoga teaching community, and then I at least found a reason for the indulgence.

Fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear. What we cannot predict, or quantify is always much scarier than that which has a known or likely outcome. When things are predictable, we can plan, prepare, do what we need to do. Even if what we end up knowing is incredibly hard, knowing is always better. 

And so, I recorded a  (slightly rambling) video as an introduction to some stuff I will be talking about this week about the nature of fear, and especially fear of the unknown. I will link it to my work in yoga for cancer, and healthcare chaplaincy, and in future videos, I will offer some practices. In this video, I end with John O'Donohue's poem 'For the Interim Time' - words below. 

For the Interim Time - John O'Donohue

When near the end of the day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

"The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born."

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

From 'Benedictus - A Book of Blessings' - 2007 Bantam Press

Thursday, 31 October 2019

What is Samhain?

Samhain is the Celtic fire festival which honours the transition from Autumn into winter. It is New Year in the Celtic Calendar. It is also the beginning of the winter season. Essentially the time between now and Imbolc at the end of January is the season of Samhain (pronounced Sah'wen) in Gaelic, it basically means "summer's end." Samhain also honours the dead, which is perhaps the reason that the festival which evolved from it - Halloween, or All Hallows Eve - has a strange modern emphasis on bats, skeletons and zombies. All Hallows Eve (Halloween) evolved in the middle ages as a Christian expression of the pre-Christian festival. All Hallows Eve was the day before All Hallows (All Saints) on the 1st November, and All Souls on the 2nd. So if you are Christian and worrying about Halloween, be assured that remembering the dead, and praying for souls (not dressing up as bats) is the origin of this once quite churchy festival.

The dead do not hang around in Graveyards

I do wish that the ancient meaning of this festival was held with a little more reverence. When the dead are honoured, and remembered, and welcomed, we remember that they are just us, on the other side of the veil. And none of them hang about in graveyards! 

I don't object to dressing up (it's fun and traditional) or carving lanterns out of pumpkins*, but  I do not enjoy the rampant commercialisation - of anything really! There are plastic pumpkins, bats and fake cobwebs, everywhere! Even a bridal shop I saw in town the other day had a halloween display! 

At this most sacred time, when the veil between the living and the dead is considered to be at its thinnest, our connection to our ancestors is considered to be at its strongest and most powerful. It is a festival of light and dark, which does not emphasise any negativity in the darkness, but balance: without darkness, there is no light, and vice versa.
So let us honour our ancestors and those who have gone before us. Light candles, lay a place at the table, sing their favourite songs, and remember them well. 

* The tradition of carving a lantern out of a pumpkin evolved out of the Celtic tradition of carving lanterns out of neeps/tumshies (swedes or large turnips) When people migrated to America, they started carving what was available, which was squash, or pumpkins. And the American tradition (along with many other things) got transported right back to us. To be fair, pumpkins are much easier to carve, but nothing beats a tumshie lantern.