Monday, March 28, 2011

The Ugly Ducking comes Home


The Chieftains Candle - Pittee


When I sing before the fire at the Benwiskin Centre I will at some stage during the evening ask if there are any songs that people would like me to sing.  On occassion there are songs requested that I do not know.


Recently at one of the drumming workshop one participant kindly agreed to send me the gift of a CD by an artist whose work I did not know.  These arrived in the post together with a lovely card and a blessing.  Included in this card was part of a poem I love.  It is by the mystic poet Mary Oliver entitled "Wild Geese."


Here are some of the wonderful lines of this poem.


"Meanwhile the wild geese
high in the clear blue sky
are heading home again."


Wild geese have a special meaning in Irish history.  It was a time of abandonment.  It was a time when the Chieftains of Ireland went into exile in other lands.  Abandonment is one of my key life themes.  I am the one who identifies with the story of the ugly duckling who feels he does not belong but holds true to an inner knowing that is later revealed.


High in the clear blue sky of direct awareness the ugly ducking is heading home to the awareness of the beauty that he is and is alway destined to become.  This is why I love storytelling.  I get to go home to the real home where I truly belong and can never be abandoned - the home of the heart in at-one-ment with the longing and belonging of the soul.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Invitation of Poetry

Love locked Out - Merrit


Poetry is for this writer and storyteller one of the seven ways to living a wonderful life.  Poetry is the language that invites you to live the wondertale that you are here to tell - not so much in words but as the presence of beauty that is beyond form.  It is the one language that will allow you to travel to infinite worlds of potential.


Do you feel yourself to be beautiful?  Do you walk in beauty as the Navaho blessing invites you to do?  This writer is not simply writing here about being glamorous - but being in direct connection with the essence of who you are.  Moving as the grace note you are here to play as part, but never apart from, the pressence of the universal intelligence that your are.  This universal intelligence is Love.


Most people, most everyone I know does not consider themselves to be beautiful.  They will defend this idea saying that it is a kind of arrogance.  Yet look at little children playing for no reason at all and experiencing delight in their natural creative expression.
That is until such time that they are taught such creativity needs to be productively channelled into making something functional.


I tell stories about the Tuatha de Danaan - the beautiful people - who in the myths of Ireland are driven underground.  This story, like all mythology, is not just some old story.  It is an ever present story of the way we treat ourselves with our conditionality and our inner critic who loves to tell us how inadequate we are.  We are the sleeping beauty asleep in the high tower of the intellect that thinks that intellectual knowledge means you understand who you are.


Poetry is the language of the heart that knows beauty.  That is why in all the circles I have attended at the Benwiskin Centre I leave a book of poetry on the table in front of the fire.  These books invite you into the fire that burns no wood.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Riddle of the Pathless Path



Each time I enter the semi circle that is gathered around the fire at the Benwiskin Centre I tell a story.  More often than not this is a new story that has come from a line of a poem that has or is presently inspiring me.

Included in these stories there is sometimes a riddle.  I am a riddle maker.  Children and adults love riddles but these riddles are not simply entertainment.  They are written to invite the listener into the direct experience of the greatest riddle of all - that although you feel separate from most everything that in truth you are forever One.

This is why the master storyteller Jesus Christ used parables.  They have to go beyond the rational mind which barrs entry to the experience of non-duality - that which is not either/or but both this and that at the same time.

Riddles and parables have  been important divices throughout the journey of the spirti.  The greatest riddles are those of the Zen koan such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping.  This riddle, however, isn't much fun for children and would in all likelihood send participants of a drumming workshop to have an early night.

So the riddle I am working with goes something like this. 

"Go to the placeless place and follow the forgotten path to the door of twixt and in between.  There enter the circle of gold and make the two one.  Do all of this without doing all of this and the light will return."

Answers can be sumitted via the comments on this page.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Burfday to Me


Today is my 61st birthday.  I thank God for this most amazing day and for everything that is YES.  I feel blessed beyond measure.  The card from my partner Bee included the following lines.

"A child is born in  a broad landscape
--- when the bird sang its song
on the stone threshold."

Jean Fullain

This card has as its outer design the images of dragonflies - the symbol of transformation.  It is hard for me sometimes to believe that I have lived as long as I have and to be so blessed - this truly is a transformation from the young man who felt so alone and unloved so many years before.

In my writings and in the stories I tell there is the continual invitation to the experience of threshold.  The stone threshold can represent the world of matter - our existance in time and space - while the singing bird is always a representation of the soul and its longing for our at one ment with Love.

Sixty one years today two children were born to my mother (I am a twin).  We were born in a narrow landscape of a small Irish village.  We were three months premature and not expected to live.  That we did, is in large part due to my beloved grandmother.  She sat by the fire and dozed for three months feeding us at regular times with Cowgate milk and brandy from a dropper.

She continued to say YES to us all through her life and for her, especially on this most amazing day, I remember her with Love and affection and say, "Thank God for you my grandmother Sarah Dobbin."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I might as well try and Catch the Wind

Waterhouse - Windflowers

I sit by the fire and pick up the white guitar and start to pick out a melody. The chord is an F Minor 7th cord that gives the intro of the song a kind of haunting refrain. I begin to sing this song about the impossibility of Love as reflected in the lines: -
“I might as well try and catch the wind.”


In this song the singer songwriter expresses the hearts longing – it is my longing – it is the longing expressed in the words


“Standing in your heart is where I want to be and long to be.”


This longing is the longing of the mystic heart to be the knowing and presence of Love. All mystics and all seekers are longing to be at one with the heart of creation that the heart knows is the only placeless place of real contentment and joy. It takes courage to long for what is formless, invisible, and immortal. That is why courage as a word means, “to enter the heart.”

Longing is a very Irish sentiment. It appears in our music and in the landscape, particularly the landscape of the West of Ireland. People come to Ireland for many reasons but those who connect deeply with the landscape connect to what the great Irish poet W. B. Yeats called “the deep hearts core.”

In Irish mythology there are stories of the timeless land of Tir Na Nog. This is an understanding of your timeless nature – your forever young nature. In Christian terms this is the experience of eternal life which paradoxically speaking you know when you are not. This is the riddle of existence and is as difficult to attain as trying to catch the wind yet it is what the heart longs for.

Sitting by the fire I continue singing and play a chord that is a drone chord. Its sound invites the hearts longing into its direct awareness of our timeless nature. The song, Catch the Wind by Donovan could be considered an unrequited love song but for this singer, sitting by the fire, the invitation goes so much deeper. Although it is a kind of sad lament there is a beauty in expressing this longing for the paradox of existence that once known it is never forgotten.

This is the opening song of a long night of heartsongs that takes me, and takes the listeners deeper, into the fire that burns no wood. Then as the night progresses we might, as told in a line from another song by the same singer songwriter find ourselves experiencing: -


And at the midnight hour they jumped into the fire.
And in that fire they will stay forever and a day.
For the fire O Lord is the fire of Love
Just like the peaceful dove.


So we do what we have done for thousands of years. We gather around the fire to listen to stories and songs that give us a sense of meaning and empower us for the difficult work of living life in form. This allows us to feel a real sense of community gathered together around the hearth and the heart and to connect to our Ru├ích rhythm – the rhythm of our spirit and of our inspiration.