The Ultimate Truth!

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I would like to pass on my thoughts about, what I see as the Ultimate Truth, impermanence. But don’t just take my word for it, spend some time in contemplation and come to your own conclusions.

During my spiritual journey there has been one concept that has had the most profound effect upon my life, and my philosophy, that is the concept of impermanence. Whether you see that as; the Pagan cycle of birth,death and rebirth as exemplified in the Wheel of the Year; the Buddhist concept of Samsara, the Hindu concept of Moksha, or the Scientific concept of the Cycle of life, it cannot be denied that everything changes and is impermanent. At the level of inanimate matter all things change, nothing is permanent, even Suns are born; illuminate the vacuum of Space, but eventually die, and are recycled into new stars or planets etc. In the realm of the biological all life; comes into existence, grows and experiences life on this planet, but eventually dies. This is the natursl law of the universe and nothing, and no-one, is exempt. Psychologically this has a profound effect upon the human psyche and; depending upon our particular psychological make-up, belief systems, and experiences, each individual will deal-with, or not deal-with, this fact of life.

How do I apply this concept to my life and what impact has it had on how I live and view my life? in particular how does it impact on my response to the fact of my own mortality?

Whether you belive in an existence prior to birth or after death does not really matter, and is ultimately unknowable whilst in this physical body. I personally have my own concept of what happens after death and what preceded my birth, but I want to keep this post focussed on how the realisation of impermanence can have a real impact on how we live our life in the here and now. As such, this discussion is focused on impermanence, which although universal to the whole of the Universe, I will take as its focus how it applies to the experience of being human.

As a newly conceived embryo, existence within the womb is pretty comfortable, all of our needs are catered for and we float around in a warm, supportive environment. It must truly feel like we are the centre of the universe. Suddenly all of that changes and we experience the trauma of birth, life will never be the same again, and the experience must be truly terrifying. We are presented with a completely new experience in an environment that we had no knowledge of, or expectation!

It is suggested that, as a new-born child, we have no understanding that we are separate from that which we experience in our environment, they still experience an awareness of the oneness of the universe. There is a process of learning required which will be shaped by our environment and experiences. This is one of the first examples that demonstrate the concept of Karma, originally a Hindu and Buddhist concept, but now widely accepted in many western thought and belief systems. Although I do have a belief in a form of reincarnation, Karma is not a concept that requires a belief in reincarnation, it’s simply the law of cause and effect and applies moment by moment throughout our lives. I’ll have a bit more to say about Karma later in this post.

As we begin to grow-up and become toddlers we begin to interact more with the environment, exploring relationships with both other living beings and our physical surroundings. All of these experiences will have a profound effect on how we develop, both physically and psychologically, and is another example of the process of Karma.

Entering childhood we expand the influences on our development as we enter the wider world of education and increasing social/environmental contact. We change through this journey and are no longer the person we were as a new-born child or a toddler. Already we have an example of impermanence, it is also quite clear how Karma has impacted on this process of change. We are no longer the same person that we were previously, although there is a stream of memory and consciousness that ties the changing persona together to help create our personality and fledgling Ego. Whether there is some deeper, higher, consciousness that is permanent I don’t know, but personally I have a subjective feeling that there is a deep part of me, almost pre-conscious that is permanent throughout my life, and will continue after death. Either way it is impossible to know, therefore, it may be an interesting metaphysical and philosophical question to ponder but has no real bearing on the truth of the impermanence of life on the physical plane.

Teenage years are a rollercoaster of change and impermanence, driven by the physical processes stimulated by the release of our various hormones; our physical bodies, psychological drives and desires, and personality are in a process of rapid change. Nothing is stagnant at this stage, and these physical processes are not under our conscious control, although our psychological and health development will be impacted by the personal choices we make, these being driven by our desires or aversions, attachments, and knowledge.

Moving into adulthood we have developed a mature Ego and personality based upon the Karmic effects inherited from our growth from birth to adulthood. Most people, through the influence of our culture and family ties, enter working life and begin the process of starting families or building careers. It’s very much a time of reactive activity based upon the pressure from our environment. But the way that we react to this pressure and influence from our environment, and the choices we then make, will have a profound impact upon our future development. Once again looking back we can see that the person we were as a teenager has gone, or at least been assimilated into the mature adult personality and ego. It’s clear by this stage that our Ego and Personality are impermanent and, therefore, change is inevitable!

Moving into old age we change physically, emotionally and psychologically; our bodies are no longer able to do physical activities as well as they used to, our mental processes may begin to decline, our vision deteriorates, and our health declines. This is the time that, for most people, thoughts begin to turn towards reviewing their past life and looking towards their impending death. This can be a very difficult time for some but, depending on how they view life and particularly if they have accepted that all is impermanent, it is possible to come to terms with this process.

So, being someone who at the age of 58 has been given a diagnosis on incurable stage 4 cancer, how have I processed that information, and how has my contemplation of impermanence helped me to come to terms with this?

I have always been conscious of my health and wellbeing; having watched my diet, kept my ear to the ground with the latest health research and advice, exercised regularly, and monitored my physical condition. it was, to say the least, initially a surprise and a shock. Someone asked me if I was upset that it had happened to me at this age as I was so health conscious, I answered “why not me? I’m no more special than anyone else” I think many of those around me are surprised at my reaction, but I think this stems from my many years of being a Pagan; an animist; and having an interest in studying a wide and varied number of other spiritual belief systems. Also, I work as a nurse and have cared for many patients as they go through the process of dying, I have sat with patients, their relatives, and their friends, as they try to come to terms with the dying process. This has led me to a deep understanding and acceptance of the impermanence of life, my own included. I have contemplated my own death over the years, and dealt with the death of my Father, Mother, and Mother-in-Law.

Through the process of Karma we are influenced by the past, our future is influenced by the Karma we develop in the Now. As the past no longer exists and we cannot change the Karma that we inherited from it. I do not focus on the past if I can help it and have little attachment to it or harbour any regret. The future has yet to be and is unknowable, therefore, there is little benefit to be gained from worrying about what may be. By all means make sensible contingency plans for possible future scenarios, it would be remiss of me, as someone with incurable cancer not to. But worry is a wasted emotion and achieves nothing but distress in the now.

The only thing that exists is the ‘Now’ the now has been influenced by my past, and future will be influenced by the; actions, intentions, and motivation that I choose to have in this moment.

The Now is the most important thing that I can focus on as the Karma I develop now is the Karma that will influence what future I experience. Even the quality of my death, and how it impacts on those around me, is intimately tied up with how I live in the Now.

Even the Now is impermanent and exists for only an instant, it cannot be grasped or held onto, you cannot have an attachment to it for it is fleeting. But the decisions you make, the attachments you create and the desires you act upon in the Now will carry forward into your future through the cause and effect process of Karma.

So, to conclude this post I will just say that I try, to the best of my ability, to live in the now. I pay particular attention to; the desires and impulses I act upon; the attachments I develop at each moment; the choices I make; the impact I have on others by my actions, speech and choices. I find that the Buddhist Nobel Eightfold Path is a useful guide to achieve this and accords pretty well with my Druidic beliefs.

I accept that I have a life limiting disease but I keep in mind that, if I allow this to cause me undue anxiety Regarding my ultimate death, I have allowed a future that does not yet exist to rob me of the joys and experiences of the present, this causing unnecessary suffering to myself and those around me.

I hope this has given you some food for thought, I reiterate my suggestion to not take my word for it, but to do your own contemplation on impermanence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please comment if you have anything interesting and constructive to add.

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Poems of Aspiration towards Peace

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I aspire to be a bringer of peace within my world and, to this end, I try to spread peace, gratitude and loving-kindness within my immediate circle of influence. But, I alone cannot change the World; although together, if each of us aspire to, and work towards,
bringing these qualities into being within our own circles of influence, we can effect change on a deep level in the wider community.

As a Bard of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids I take inspiration from one of the Triads found in ‘The Barddas’ compiled by Iolo Morganwg, where he writes:

The three foundations of Bardism: peace; utility; and justice. Others say: peace; love; and justice.

J. Williams (Ab Ithel). The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg Volume 1 (Kindle Locations 4530-4531). Global Grey. Kindle Edition.

With this in mind I have come across a few poems that have inspired me today, I would love to share them with you. I hope they inspire you to aspire for peace in our world.

The first two are from the Buddhist Tradition: Source link

Being Peace – Thich Nhat Hanh

If we are peaceful,
If we are happy,
We can smile and blossom like a flower.
And everyone in our family,
Our entire society,
Will benefit
From our peace.

 

Bodhisattva Prayer For Humanity  – Shantideva

May I be a guard for those who need protection,
A guide for those on the path,
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.
May I be a lamp in the darkness,
A resting place for the weary,
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles.
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening,
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.

______________________________

The next one is from the Christian Tradition: Source Link

A prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Amen.

______________________________

The next one if from the Druid Tradition: Source Link

Druid Peace Prayer – Order of Bards, Druids and Ovates

Deep within the still centre of my being,
may I find peace.

Silently within the quiet of the Grove,
may I share peace.

Gently and powerfully,
within the greater circle of humankind,
may I radiate peace.

______________________________

The last one is from the Peace Mantra Foundation: Source Link

The Peace Mantra

Peace in my Heart.
Peace in this Place.
Peace in our Land.
And throughout the World,
Peace

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic!

It never ceases to amaze me when inspiration arises at the most unexpected time, or in the most obscure of places.  It all began on the day of the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, which is a nice promotional day organised by the Talyllyn Railway where families take a ride on the narrow-gauge railway from Tywyn to Abergynolwen on the edges of the wonderful Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.

 

The weather was gorgeous and perfect for a picnic in the play area at Abergynolwen Station. Scarlett was already tucking into a tasty cool ice-cream! and cuddling up to her Teddy bear.

We had a great time on the picnic, and we were joined by a small pack of Teddy Bears that had joined the party on our table! 20180726_120109

You may at this point be wondering what the strange thing was that happened whilst out at the Teddy Bears Picnic? Well, it happened on the train journey back to Tywyn, as the Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub of the trains wheels on the track sent me into an almost hypnotic trance.

A Train Journey: Metaphor for mindfulness Practice

As I was gently swayed from side to side by the gentle rocking of the carriage I automatically slipped into a state of mindfulness. The gentle Lub-Dub becoming the focus of my attention as I became aware of how the gentle rocking was synchronised with the repetative sounds. I found this blend of sound and movement to be extremely relaxing.

At times my attention was grabbed by something within the passing countryside and my state of mindfulness was, for a moment, broken as the object of interest took hold of my consciousness. Sometimes I was able to relax my attention and return to the Lub-Dub sounds and the gentle swaying as the attention grabbing scene disappeared out of view. This reminded me of how in mindful practice, a thought, vision or sound could grab-hold of your attention and, without you even being aware that it had happened,  could hook your conscious attention. Before you know it you find yourself on a train of thought that takes you away from being mindful of the ‘Now’ moment. The moment you become conscious of this happening you have the opportunity to gently, without irritation of expectation, return your attention back to where you are. Becoming aware of your breathing helps you to centre back into the moment and once more allowing your attention to fall, relaxed, upon the current surroundings and what is occurring within the ‘Now’.

As I contemplated this process, and how the train journey itself was an excellent metaphor for the whole mindfulness experience, I realised that the things that grabbed my attention and ‘Hooked’ me were mainly sights or sounds that initiated some kind of emotional response within me. It really didn’t matter what the emotion was; be it Awe, Curiosity, Irritation, anger etc. the power of the emotional body to take control of your attention and thoughts was quite surprising and quite a revelation. Just like life itself the train journey had plenty of opportunities to grab my attention and take me on a thought journey away from the experience of the moment.

My next revelation was realising that my thoughts would often be taken, either forward along the track to possible future experiences or back along the track to what had already happened. This was another aspect that mimicked the process of mindful practice. Whilst practicing mindfulness I often find that it takes some time, and quite a bit of persistence, to let go of my thoughts about the future or the past and to just experience the moment of ‘Now’. This doesn’t require any effort or physical activity, but requires a letting go of attachment to whatever is driving this though form. Just like on the train where you can look back along the track to see where you have been or forward to where the train is being taken, it would quite easy to allow your attention and conscious awareness to follow these trains of thought and to become so engrossed in what has been, or the possibilities of what may be, that the beauty that exists just outside the train carriage is missed.

Looking out the window to the tantalising hint of the sea that appears through the trees it would be tempting to get drawn into the future and the past. Thoughts of enjoying the seashore when the journey is are in conflict with thoughts reaching back into the past as the memories, and the emotions related to the memories, come flooding back and clamour for my conscious attention.20180726_134948

At times the train was forced to slow down, or stop, for a minute or two and I was able to allow my awareness to fall onto the surrounding beauty. I had time to take in the scene and feel gratitude for the sense of calm and peace that nature often provides. Having no distractions at these times, other than my wandering thoughts, I was able to appreciate the moment and see aspects of the countryside that otherwise would be missed. These were like the moments within my mindfulness practice where I become fully immersed in the now and become acutely aware of all that surrounds me or what is happening to, and within, me. Those moments of clarity and pure mindfulness are like the metaphorical station stops along the train journey of life.

My message to you, the reader, is simple:

mindful train ticket

Have a mindful day!
Regards Chris /|\

 

Chamomile & Lavender Tea: What a magical herbal mix.

The gentle breeze was just enough to take the heat out of the mid-day Sun while I sat watching the bees as they were busy coming and going from the hives. It was idyllic and I was lulled into a state of mindfulness by the warm breeze and the gentle hum of the hives. Just what the Dr. ordered for some spiritual recuperation 🙂

During my sojourn into the ‘Now’ the chamomile that grows around the hives caught my attention  as they swayed and bobbed in the breeze followed quickly by the subtle scent of the lavender encroaching into the periphery of my senses.

Not one to pass-up a message from nature I felt inspired to make a nice cup of Chamomile & Lavender tea. I’d have a look at the properties of these two herbs after I’d indulged myself in the brew.

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Chamomile & Lavender Tea

Properties of Chamomile (9 top Properties)

  1. High Source of Antioxidants
  2. Fights Anxiety and Depression
  3. Improves Digestion
  4. Has Strong Anti-Inflammatory and Pain-Reducing Abilities
  5. Helps Fight Cancer (in particular skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers)
  6. Relieves Congestion
  7. Promotes Skin Health
  8. Keeps Gums and Teeth Healthy
  9. Improves Heart Health

According to Dr Nasha Winters and Jess Higgins Kelley in their book, ‘The Metabolic Approach to Cancer‘, state the following regarding Chamomile:

Apigenin, a plant flavonoid found in Parsely’s stems and leaves (as well as in celery and chamomile tea) demonstrates cytotoxic activities)…

…its cytotoxic activity has been found comparable to that of doxorubicin.

Properties of Lavender

  • Antiseptic and Anti-inflammatory
  • Treats Anxiety, Insomnia, depression and Restlessness
  • Helps Digestive Issues
  • Relieves pain
  • Antifungal
  • Useful in wound healing

I’d say that nature was giving me a nice little helping hand there with its hint at making a chamomile and lavender tea! relaxing and calming properties plus anti-cancer properties 🙂

See below for a few sources to support the above, but there are loads more out there if you have a look.

Have a relaxed and chilled-out day, and remember to tell those you love that “You Love Them”

Peace and love
Chris /|\

Sources:

 

A Simple Question Caused a Rethink!

Today’s Affirmation

I accept my past without judgement, and Relish the Opportunity to Learn

I knew when my friend asked me the simple question it would cause a rethink!

Where did you spend your childhood holidays?

I spent sometime explaining that as a young child, about the age of 5 or 6, my parents had taken us abroad, mainly to the Mediterranean, for our holidays. This was quite unusual in the mid to late 60’s. Although unusual, for the working classes at least, it was made possible as Spain began to open itself up to tourism following its transition from a State run as an Autarky ruled by the military dictator Francisco Franco, to one pursuing economic liberalisation.

After this little discourse into my childhood my friend then made the following observation.

You were so lucky to have been given the opportunity to explore Europe at such a young age.

Suddenly. like a light bulb being turned on, I realised that, yes, I was so fortunate to have had this opportunity and that I had never really appreciated the value of these experiences, let alone felt the gratitude to my parents for giving us, I have a brother and a sister, these experiences at such a pivotal moment in our lives.

My Parents both worked and we were a typical working class family. I never really appreciated how hard they must have worked to allow us to travel all over Europe and have such memorable holidays. I still have vivid memories of all the countries we travelled through on our way to Spain or Italy, from turquoise lakes in the Alps to beautiful idyllic villages in Germany.

Spain’s tourist industry was, at this time, in its infancy and the little fishing villages and market towns we visited had the feel of an authentic Spanish culture that sadly seems to have long gone. I have memories of traditional Flamenco dancers performing in open air bars and feeling great amusement as my parents tried to communicate with non-English speaking Spaniards as English was hardly heard at that time.

So, I’d like to give a big posthumous thank you to my parents for the wonderful experiences they gave me. Sadly both my parents are dead and I cannot thank them in person.

The train of thought initiated by my friends comment ultimately lead to remember a moment in my life that stirred my young mind into pondering such great philosophical thoughts as to the meaning of life, the Universe and everything, that ultimately lead me down a path to forming an animistic, nature spirituality that has sustained me since that time. It was whilst travelling over the Pyrenees that we had to park up and sleep overnight in the car. I have a vivid memory of getting out of the car and being amazed by the sight of a field full of glow-worms. But what made it even more amazing was the sheer beauty of the sky, having never seen the milky-way with such clarity I was totally blown away by the sight of the night sky. The awe I felt in my soul was, and still is, indescribable. The vision of the night sky was reflected in the vision of the glow-worms on the ground, it was like seeing the sky mirrored on the grounds. Later this was to be a memory that helped me understand the Hermetic principle ‘As above, so below; as below, so above’.

milky way

Perhaps this is why I get such pleasure and joy from such simple things as seeing the dog digging in the sand on the beach with a look of sheer joy in her eyes, to sitting and just being mindful of the Sea and it’s sounds?

Gratitude

  • The beauty of nature
  • A loving family
  • Good friends
  • The example set by the dogs, the joy in simple pleasures
  • Living in such a beautiful setting
  • The Sun on my back
  • The sound of the jackdaws in the garden
  • Feeling healthy and positive
  • The NHS and all those who work so hard to care for others
  • My loving parents who ensured I had such wonderful experiences whilst growing up

Well that’s another snippet out of my life! Have a wonderful day my friends…

Two Day Chill-Out at Llyn Tegid – Bala

Being out with nature is food for the soul and nowhere feeds my soul quite as much as Llyn Tegid, otherwise known as Bala Lake. We’ve just had a couple of days camping with two wonderful friends Jackie & Kim. A great time was had by all.

True friends are there for you, through the good times and the bad. True friends feed your soul and accept you for who you are, warts and all! Jackie & Kim are two such friends, Sue and I are lucky to have them as our friends. Plus they make great sailing company. Apology for the selfie, I’m not very photogenic LOL

As we were camping on Monday to Tuesday the camp was fairly quiet and it was peaceful enough to do a bit of early morning meditation by the lake.

I have returned fully recharged and ready to take on the world! The weather wasn’t fantastic but I think the land needed the rain more than we needed the Sun. Plus it gave us the chance to take a swim in the lake in the rain! there’s something quite delicious about swimming in the rain.

Have a fantastic day
Chris /|\

 

My day begins and ends with GRATITUDE and JOY – So Can YOURS

Affirmation of the Day

My day begins and ends with GRATITUDE and JOY – Louise L. Hay

I began my day, albeit a later start than I had planned, with my 10 minutes of meditation followed by a very enjoyable exercise session. I did my usual push-ups and sit-ups but have decided to add some flexibility and relaxation training into my regime. Therefore, I’ve decided to restart Tai Chi again after a 12 year break and have joined a local class teaching the Yang style 37 step form. This is different to my previous Tai Chi form which was the Lee style, but the underlying Taoist principles are the same. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to restart my practice and I’m looking forward to the next lesson on Wednesday. I can’t really define why Tai Chi is such a joy to do, on the surface it just looks like slow elegant moving but I find it so meditative and balancing.

We had a busy day planned and I was grateful for having the two weeks annual leave from work which will allow me to get quite a few jobs done around the house and the allotment, not to mention our trip to Bala and our planned weekend with friends.

The day started with working on the garden and the back yard. Weeks of Sun with no rain has left the ground extremely dry, but the bonus of the good weather is that our two bee hives are doing extremely well. Watching the bees fills my heart with joy, gratitude and appreciation for the hard work they do and the promise of a little honey later in the year fills me with anticipation. There’s nothing to beat the pleasure of tasting the sweet unadulterated raw honey from your own bee hives, but I don’t take too much as I keep bees mainly for the pleasure of watching them and knowing that we are supporting the bio-diversity in the area. Another bonus, for which I can thank the Sunny weather for, is the health of the grape-vine this year, looks like it’s going to be a bountiful year.

Later on it was time for family. Sue and I were meeting Christina with our grand-daughter Scarlett. We met for a drink at Pebbles, a local cafe on the promenade, they are well worth a visit if you’re visiting Tywyn. Here’s a link to their Trip advisor entry.

I am so grateful to be able to spend this time with my family, it fills me with joy and happiness. It’s surprising how the words “you have cancer” can somehow make everything clearer about what’s really important in life. Cancer, like many other life limiting conditions, is terrible but there is a flip side as it can be the stimulus to making you re-evaluate your life’s priorities. I think my diagnosis has sharpened my ‘metaphorical’ vision to be able to see, and appreciate, the joy that can be gained from the simple pleasures, like spending time with family. So I do at least have one thing to be grateful for from my illness. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say LOL.

Later that day I spent 45 minutes listening to the healing cancer hypnosis video I’m currently using. I still can’t believe I manage to lie still for that length of time! I do appreciate the effort, and generosity, of people who produce material like this for free. Please visit their channel and give a thumbs up to help them out. Hypnosis: Deep Trance Cancer Healing

Well that’s a quick outline of my day and the joy and gratitude I feel. I’ll check in again soon.

Have a wonderfully joyous day filled with peace, harmony and gratitude