Monday 29 August 2022

Follow Your Bliss: Find Your meaning

I was chatting with a congregant Helen Redhead in the gym. As many of you know she has recently begun competing as a power lifter, she is making great progress. She was telling me some new training that she was involved in. it was something like “Stone lifting”, a bit like you would see in the Highland Games. She has since told me that they are called “Dinny Stones”. I think the idea of getting dressed up was as exciting as competing to Helen. It was great to see her so thrilled and excited, to see her “Following her Bliss.” She told me afterwards that she was going to meet a mutual friend for lunch. She was going to share about past struggles of her own that she had overcome, a wonderful example of her finding meaning from a place that was once suffering, by helping someone else who was experiencing a similar struggle and was looking for hope. Just as she was leaving I thanked Helen for writing this weeks sermon, which is on “Following your bliss: finding your meaning”

I will begin with “Follow Your Bliss”

What does it mean to “follow your bliss”? Well according to Joseph Campbell it is a sacred call to action. It is a call from your soul to light the fire within you to do what destiny asks of you, to bring yourself fully to life and therefore to become a light in the lives of others. Following your bliss is about doing the things that bring meaning and fulfilment despite the troubles that may accompany it. It is about meaningful living despite the very real suffering present in all life. As Campbell says by “following our bliss doors will open up for us where we could only see barriers before.”

Following our bliss is about saying yes to this call and beginning our own heroic journey. In doing so synchronicity will seemingly be abound and luck will follow. By following our bliss we seemingly become guided by something more than ourselves. This is what Campbell observed and it has certainly been my experience, since I began following mine, which is of course this ministry.

Following our bliss though is not an easy ride, quite the opposite actually. Yes, there maybe moments of triumph when all are for us and no one seems to be against us, but there will also be moments of suffering and betrayal when everyone and everything seems to be against us. As Campbell observed that like all heroic journeys there are tests and trials along the way. There are monsters and dragons to slay on the journey although most of these are the ones we carry with us. It is our fear of the adventure that is our greatest enemy. It is this that stops us taking the first vital step.

Human history is littered with figures who have been drawn out of themselves, have followed there bliss and begun their adventure thus inspiring others to do likewise. Some have done this on a mass scale, figures like Nelson Mandela, and many others have done so on a much smaller, but no less important scale. All have had to face their trials and tribulations and all brought so much light to our world. They were not special people though, they were ordinary people just like you and me; ordinary people who followed their bliss; ordinary people who found the courage to be all that they were born to be.

I wonder what it might mean for you to follow your bliss?

I am at my most blissful when singing, especially with folk my heart and my soul are in harmony with. I am singing more at more once again, my soul is calling out for this. I had the most incredible experience this week during “Singing Meditation” as my voice blended heart and soul with that of another, I feel it may lead to more singing and soul stretching. My heart felt so alive, so aroused. Before we began we were chatting and Martin, who was attending for the first time, shared that he had recently found his voice, after nearly fifty years, during a service at Cross Street Chapel in Manchester. It was beautiful how he described this. I shared I had had similar experiences myself at Cross Street all those years ago. I discovered later that another friend, Helen and mine’s mutual friend, had begun to find her voice during “Singing Meditation”. All this was bliss to me, to my heart and soul and was music to my ministry, my purpose, my meaning. I wonder where this may lead. I suspect it will be somewhere wonderful, as we follow our bliss.

“Singing Meditation” was last Tuesday, the 23rd August. It was 22 years ago on that Ethan was born, the little boy who lived six years, but who was the most significant person ever to enter my life. My ministry in many ways is a legacy to his love and life. Certainly my journey through this seemingly unbearable grief is what led me to this work. His mum shared some lovely messages with me last Tuesday, including one in which she told me “You were always good for Ethan, you taught him it was ok to be a sensitive soul.” It broke me that day. I never think about what I gave to him, only what he gave to me. Of course we all still live with the grief of this loss, I have been saved though from despair by the meaning that is my life’s work that has grown from this loss. It has saved me from despair. It has enabled me to help others in their own grief, I have not lost that sensitivity, if anything I feel more deeply as time goes by, as I am sure you have all observed these last few months. Sometimes this makes it difficult, but it is the only way. My life has proven to me that despair is suffering without meaning D=S-M. Despair equals suffering minus meaning.

This leads me to the other question

“How do we find our meaning?”

The equation D=S-M comes from Viktor Frankl. In “Man’s Search For Meaning” he wrote “Man is not destroyed by suffering; he is destroyed by suffering without meaning.” He discovered that if we have a “why” to live for we can endure anything. More than that actually it is this that allows us to thrive, to be all that we are born to be. To not only improve our lives, but to serve our world. This in my eyes has parallels with Campbell’s idea of finding your own bliss, only in less flowery language and imagery.

Like finding our bliss, uncovering meaning is no easy task, how do we do so? Where do we find meaning in our lives? What about those who tell us that life is essentially meaningless? Is there one meaning? Is there one truth?

Now Frankl would suggest that it is for each of us to discover our own meaning in any given situation. That this is our task; that this meaning may not be in the given moment but in some place in the future; that it is to be found in some purpose or meaning yet to come. Again, there are parallels with Campbell’s idea of finding your own bliss. Campbell saw no one meaning, that life itself was meaningless in one sense. Our task is to discover what our bliss is to inspire others to do the same, in so doing our lives become meaning filled. The meaning is not given to us, it is revealed through our lives.

Campbell made his discoveries through studying ancient texts and stories, Frankl developed his observing and experiencing the horrors of the Nazi death camps.

In “Man’s Search For Meaning” Frankl gives an account of his struggle to find meaning when held as a prisoner in the Nazi death camps of the Second World War. He lost most of his family and friends in the camps and yet he never lost hope in humanity.

Frankl was the founder of what has often been referred to as the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” Freud founded the first which was based on the central role of the libido or pleasure principle in human psychology. Alfred Adler founded the second which emphasised the importance of the will to power and the significance of the superiority/inferiority complex in human behaviour. In contrast to these two schools Frankl’s psychology is based on the will to meaning which he saw as the primary motivating force in human life. He named it “Logotherapy” taken from the Greek term logos, which means “word”, “reason”, or “meaning”. Think of the opening words from John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” The word here of course is “Logos”. There is an implication here that meaning has a transcendent origin.

Frankl saw a spiritual dimension beyond the biological and psychological. He saw the suppression of this as the root cause of our human malady. Therefore, the task of “Logotherapy” was “to remind patients of their unconscious religiousness” and to uncover the spiritual dimensions of their lives and enable them to recover the capacity to choose those values which give our lives worth and meaning.

Now this meaning is of course different for everyone, again we see parallels with Campbell here. As Frankl said himself:

“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

Frankl claimed that meaning is discovered through creative and worthwhile activities, by creating something beautiful or doing good – I believe that one of the greatest sadness’s of our age is the fact that the phrase “do-gooder” has become a term of mockery, that it is somehow seen as wrong and suspicious to do good - Meaning can be found through experiencing and sharing in the beauty of art or nature or through loving or ethical encounters with others.

Even in the most horrific and terrifyingly hopeless situations we still have the capacity to choose our attitude towards whatever circumstances we are faced with. It is our response to life’s events that shapes our souls. Remember Frankl developed his theory during the utter despair and horror of the Nazi death camps. As Frankl himself said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

There are those that say that life has no meaning, that nothing matters in life. I was once one of these people. These days I see no truth in such statements. These days I see meaning in everything, even in the most painful moments in life. In fact it has usually been through coming through these most painful moments that the greatest meaning has emerged. Not immediately always but eventually as I have been able to give back to others from the experience of the suffering I have experienced and or witnessed. These last few months have proved this once again This in no way justifies the suffering please do not get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting any such thing. To quote Dorothee Soelle, “no heaven can rectify an Auswitz”. No what I am saying is that through living openly meaning can emerge. Meaning can merge from living by the way of the Lure of Divine Love. Such love draws us out of ourselves and meaning emerges as we live from love and our most painful experiences are transfigured into meaning and purpose. The suffering is still as real, but meaning begins to emerge as we are saved from the hell of despair.

We can also know bliss in our lives, by uncovering whatever it is that makes us feel alive. I have witnessed it again in the lives of ordinary people in this extraordinary week. I have experienced it too. Spiritually speaking it has been quite a week, my heart has felt close to bursting at times. That said this week has not been without pain, but even in that meaning has emerged and I have experienced utter bliss.

So follow your bliss, find your meaning. I am not here to tell you what the meaning of life is. I would be cautious of anyone who suggests that they have all the answers to such questions. What I can tell you though is that meaning can and will emerge from you, all you have to do is follow your bliss. In so doing not only will your life be meaning filled but you will inspire others to do the same.

Please find below a video devotion based
 on the material in this "blogspot"

Monday 22 August 2022

Joy is there everywhere: Let's get giddy with it

I have enjoyed a couple of weeks break. I have known much joy. Whether that has been spending time with friends, visiting beloved places, connecting with nature. I also spent a few days with little Charlie, a time we both enjoyed immensely. I have reflected on these joys in my daily sharing of the little things. I cannot tell you much this has helped me since early December. I have also known a great deal of deep love, from so many folks. Yes there are still the great difficulties that we all face in life. I do not turn from them and as a result I also know the joy of living, in all its mystery. So much joy.

I have learnt that joy comes from appreciation; appreciation of course comes from paying attention. As Mary Oliver said Attention is the beginning of devotion” and I have learnt that such attention and thus devotion enables us to fully experience the joy of living. To know joy you must engage fully in the reality of everything, even that which causes deep pain.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote…

“Joy is everywhere; it is in the earth’s green covering of grass; in the blue serenity of the sky; in the reckless exuberance of spring; in the severe abstinence of grey winter; in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame; in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright; in living; in the exercise of all our powers; in the acquisition of knowledge; in fighting evils; in dying for gains we never can share. Joy is there everywhere.”

“Joy is there everywhere.” Do we believe this? What does your life teach you? What energises you? How do you feel when you are around a person filled with joy, en-joying life, en-joying who they are, singing the joy of living in all its mystery? What do you do when you are around such a person? I do hope you never try to clip their wings, to put them off being who they truly are, learning to fly free. I hope you never try to enslave them by the dangers of living with too much safety. In fact if you are going to be cautious about anything in life, it ought to safety. Be very careful about playing it safe, for it won’t guard you against the dangers of life, it will only strangle the joys of living, in all its mystery.

I was recently sat with friends enjoying coffee and conversations. I was in a joyful mood, full of song, for no apparent reason. What was lovely was that none of them were trying to curb my enthusiasm, I was with good friends.

All my life I’ve experienced people who have tried to curb my enthusiasm. It used to work as I allowed fear to inhibit my natural experience of joy, I didn’t want others to think I was a weirdo or nuts. By the way it worked for it sucked all the joy out of living as I suppressed my true human nature. There are people still try today but I know that it is more about their fear than anything I am doing or not doing. These days I always respectfully listen to others, but I do not take on board their fears and negativity. I would rather listen to the voice of joy and possibility deep within me; I prefer to live from a place of faith in life and not fear. Ever since I rediscovered faith in life itself, I have found the courage to be.

David Whyte has said of joy:

“JOY is a meeting place, of deep intentionality and of self-forgetting, the bodily alchemy of what lies inside us in communion with what formerly seemed outside, but is now neither, but become a living frontier, a voice speaking between us and the world: dance, laughter, affection, skin touching skin, singing in the car, music in the street, the quiet irreplaceable and companionable presence of a daughter: the sheer intoxicating beauty of the world inhabited as an edge between what we previously thought was us and what we thought was other than us.”

Joy is the conversational nature of reality according to Whyte.

Now to live in joy, to have faith in life is not easy, it is even harder to describe. It is far easier to talk about pain and suffering, to talk about despair. Just enter any academic environment or follow social media or the daily news. People find it far easier to talk about their pain, than their joy.

Henri Nouwen observed that anxiety and suffering are far more easily expressed than joy. He wrote:

"I vividly remember how one of my university teachers spoke for a whole year about anxiety in human life. He discussed in great detail the thoughts of Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger, and Camus and gave an impressive exposé of the anatomy of fear. One day, during the last month of the course, a few students found the courage to interrupt him and ask him to speak a little about joy before the course was over. At first he was taken aback. But then he promised to give it a try. The next class he started hesitantly to speak about joy. His words sounded less convincing and penetrating than when he spoke about anxiety and fear. Finally, after two more meetings, he told us that he had run out of ideas about joy and would continue his interrupted train of thought. This event made a deep impression on me, especially since I had such great admiration for my teacher. I kept asking myself why he was unable to teach about joy as eloquently as he had taught about anxiety.

It’s a good question, “why is it so much easier to speak about anxiety than joy?" We have no trouble describing our sadness, what is wrong, what sickens us as individuals and as a society. Nouwen observed there are far “more words for sickness than for health, more for abnormal conditions than for normal conditions. When my leg hurts, my head aches, my eyes burn, or my heart stings, I talk about it, often in elaborate ways, but when I am perfectly healthy I have little, if anything, to say about those parts of my body.”

Think about the word resentment. It comes from resentere which literally means to re-feel something. Now when we re-feel something a memory from our past life it doesn’t have to be a painful memory, something that makes us angry and yet the word resentment only has negative connotation. We do not have a word that means to re-feel something joyful. There is no specific word for this in the English language.

“Joy is there everywhere.” Do we believe this? What does your life teach you?

Here’s a little wisdom from Mary Oliver re not hesitating when joy suddenly comes.

“Don't Hesitate” by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

I am with Mary “Joy is not made to be a crumb”. No way, it is to be shared abundantly. Yet we hide from it, we find it hard to talk about it. Why is this?

I have come to believe that one reason that we struggle to speak of joy is that it is not a surface experience, it is not of the body or the mind, it is more about the spirit. It is harder to make sense of and or control with our minds and our language. Now some may say the reason for this is that joy is an abnormal state, but I have come to believe that the truth is the opposite of this. Joy is actually the essence of life. We can’t tame joy, we can’t control it and perhaps this is why we fear and distrust it in ourselves and others so much.

Joy is linked closely to ecstasy, no not the party drug, but ecstasy in its true meaning. It is derived from the Greek 'ekstasis,' formed from 'ek,' meaning out, and 'stasis,' a state of standstill. So to be ecstatic literally means to be outside of a static place. It is a constantly moving state, not a rigid or fixed one. Joy is the same, it is always new, it is about life, it is about creation. Thus, those who live ecstatic lives are always moving away from rigidly fixed situations and exploring new, unmapped dimensions of reality. This is the essence of joy.

Joy is always new; it is about life; it is about creation; it’s about energy. Think about those joy filled moments you had when you were really free, maybe while dancing, singing, playing, creating, running free, at the birth of a child whatever that might be. When you were like a child.

Can you remember the last time you got giddy? I get giddy with those folks I share my life with all the time. Yes I share many other things, but do enjoy getting “giddy” with it too.

We need to get “giddy” with it. By doing so we may well just begin to experience the joy of living. By the way “giddy” is one of the words that has been reduced in meaning over time. In medieval times it used to mean being 'possessed by a god or spirit.' Now this was not considered to be a good thing as to be in such a state was considered to be a form of insanity, simplemindedness or to be some kind of religious fanatic. Religion has shied away from such expressions and feelings. We Unitarians have sadly been at the vanguard of this, distrusting emotion and worshipping rationality. Weren’t we once known as “God’s frozen people?” Not any longer I hope. Never fear who you are, your true nature.

So something to think of as we enter the final weeks of summer. What is the nature and energy of life? Is joy the essence of life? Is it the energy that forms all life? Also how do we find ways to articulate and express this in ways that others can understand? I suspect that it might not be through the limit of words. Maybe we can’t tell, perhaps all we can do is show. So show it in all that you do and if you must, use words.

“Joy is there everywhere.” Do we believe this? What does your life teach you?

Please find below a video devotion based

 on the material in this "blogspot"

Monday 1 August 2022

Tending and being tended by the Tree of Life

I found myself in Dunham Massey once again the other morning. It was siling it down with rain. I took shelter for a little while under a great tree, as I did I reflected on the week that had gone by. It had begun by attending the funeral of my friend’s young wife, they had married just a few days before she succumbed to cancer. It was a beautiful service, a wonderful celebration of “Hannah’s life”.

As I sheltered I was filled with a deep grief and sadness for my cousin Cheryl who is still with us at the time of writing, it was her birthday on Friday, she turned 42. There are other deep sadness around too, my heart feels broken, certainly tender. As I stood there sheltering, protected by the tree, Barbara a lovely member at Dunham Road, one of the congregations I serve came running past. She stopped for a while and we chatted. I then left the shelter of the tree to return to life. I have bumped into Barbara several times over the last couple of weeks, what a deep hearted caring woman she is.

As I carried on walking in the pouring rain the wonderful poem “I go among trees” by Wendell Berry was singing in my heart.

“I Go Among Trees” by Wendell Berry

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

As I walked on I felt some of the fears in me leave me and I found myself singing some familiar songs. I’ve been singing a lot recently, so many songs. I found myself singing songs to life itself. I felt I was being held by the tree of life, a celebration of life in midst of love and loss and grief. I thought of the Jewish toast “l’chaim”, to life. Don’t we all tend the tree of life and don’t we all shelter under it too.

I love the symbolism of the tree of life, it is beautifully universal. It represents such a nurturing love. I think in our secular age we have lost some of the power and deep meaning of symbols. I have a growing appreciation for the old symbols, they reveal deep truths that are sometimes hidden, that words alone do not reveal. The mythologist Joseph Campbell taught that certain images and pictures invite the eye not to merely rush along but to rest a while and dwell within the revelation that can be found by looking deeply into them. I was thinking of this as I passed all those beautiful trees, so strong and sturdy, offering shelter from the rain. They are a toast to life itself. The tree is the symbol of life. This is why the “Tree of Life” is a universal symbol.

“l’chaim”, to life.

The trees have much to teach us. My name sake and American colleague Rev Greta W. Crosby recognises this. In “Tree and Jubilee” she describes a silent none judgemental presence that the trees offer her, something we humans cannot give no matter how well we may think we are at listening. The trees simply stand there erect and open, never shrinking away or rejecting, offering unconditional love and acceptance. She wrote:

“I have long had a sense of fellowship with trees. Since I was a child, I have sought their company from time to time because I like the way I feel in their presence. I enjoy their beauty, but it is more than that. I used the word “presence” in a very strong sense. I felt their presence as living things. And in that presence, I often feel relaxed and centered, peaceful, restored to inner equilibrium.”

She continues…

“For many of us, life is the meaning of the tree. But for me, perhaps the greatest thing about the tree is its silence. Whatever the tree says to us, whatever it answers to our questing, the tree gives its message without words. And the tree bears with us well. It does not judge. It does not react to our anxieties. It does not run after us. It just stands there with open arms.”

The tree to me is the ultimate symbol of life. We all tend and nurture the tree of life. “l’chaim”, to life.

The “Tree of Life” is a beautiful and universal symbol it can be found in many of the worlds religious traditions. The ancient Chinese, Assyrians, Egyptians, Baylonians and Samarians all had a tree of life symbol. There is Ygdrassil, the Norse Tree of Life, The Etz Ha Hayim of the Kaballistic Jews. The Bahai's speak of it and Christians of all kinds speak of the tree of life, with healing leaves, found in the Book of Revelations. The book of Genesis tells of two trees: a Tree of Knowledge, which is the tree of good and evil, and the Tree of Life, the tree of immortality. Of course in Genesis 2 they ate the forbidden fruit, the “Tree of Knowledge”, as the result Adam and Eve are banished from paradise, from life I suspect.

As I continued to wander round Dunham I recalled a conversation I had a few days earlier, in the very same spot, with a friend. We were talking about where this sense of wrongness we humans can feel at times comes from. Something we have both shared, something sadly so many do. Where does this rejection of life come from? We talked about the foundational stories in Genesis. Of course it is all Mythos. It is not history to be argued over factual accuracy. Mythos is Universal Truth, the question to ask is does this speak to a deeper truth that we can find in ourselves, does it speak throughout time?

Now of course some reject the Bible as outdated and not only inaccurate but downright destructive. I do not, I think there is so much to engage with still. That said only in a symbolic sense. I explained to my friend how it actually begins with “Original Blessing”, in Genesis chapter one. God looked at his creation and saw that it was good. That life is a good thing, that we are formed from good, not wrong. There is no original sin, only original blessing, that blessing is formational, that life is formed from goodness. The concept of “Original Sin” was actually a creation of the later church, mainly Augustine and his self-loathing, Which I believe is a rejection of his own original blessing, something I can personally relate to at times, as sadly so many folk do.

The trouble begins in the second creation story, in the Garden of Eden. That said if we look at this symbolically rather than literally there is so much beautiful mythos to be unearthed. The original human Adam meant born from the earth. Human, humus, humility all share same linguistic root, born from the earth, not God, but finite, limited, but beautiful. Yes we are born, but we also die. This is life.

Originally we enjoy paradise, the fruits of life. There is no shame, no sense of wrongness no rejection of our lives, no destruction of ourselves and or others. We simply enjoy paradise. We have something else though. We want more, we seek more. This is where all creativity is born, but can also cause trouble. We are the only aspect of created life that experiences dissatisfaction. We want more.

So we eat the forbidden fruit, we want the knowledge, we suffer Hubris. We lose that beautiful gift of innocence, we are cast out by a sense of shame, especially with our humanity. We leave paradise.

We can though return to love to blessing, but the journey is long and arduous, not that we go anywhere. To quote Meister Eckhart, it could be of one inch, but a depth beyond any depth, layer upon layer. We return home, we go full circle, we don't go back on ourselves. We come home with treasure to share. This is the classic heroic journey. The truth of every great story, the Universal Mythos. The key is to return home to love. That though comes in later stories. I often think of the prodigal son here. With the boy returning home to the open arms of his father who greets him halfway, celebrates his return and embraces his son, with a kiss. An act of pure love. Can there be anything more intimate. It seems to me there is nothing considered wrong in this child born of love. Yet so often we do not feel we are formed from this, it is just so sad.

Now of course this is only my view of the mythos and it is certainly not orthodox in any way shape or form. My interpretation is life affirming, it celebrates life, the traditional view does not. As Joseph Campbell, that great mythologist, has said the orthodox interpretation is “a refusal to affirm life.” Life is seen as corrupt. It sees the serpent as the symbol that brought sin into the world and woman as the figure who handed the apple to man. My friend was explaining this to me as we walked round Dunham the other day. As Campbell says “This identification of the woman with sin, of the serpent with sin, and thus of life with sin, is the twist the has been given to the whole story in the biblical myth and doctrine of the Fall.... I don't know of it [the idea of woman as other mythologies] elsewhere.”

The traditional understanding sees life as the problem, especially human life and sees the female, the bringer of life, as the root of the trouble. How long have we all suffered as a result of this rejection of life and woman as central to it. We see it clearly today, it has not gone away, in fact if anything the trouble seems to be intensifying. For me the problem stems from this fear of life itself. Surely though life is good. Maybe the solution is the “Tree of Life”. It nurtures us if we tend to it and it will offer us shelter. “l’chaim”, to life.

There is an eternal wisdom in the trees. The Buddha gained enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree. The tree blessed him as it did so showering him with blossom. In ancient Christian imagery Jesus is crucified on the “Holy Rued”, “The Tree of Life”, the second tree in the garden of Eden, from this life comes again, as does fruit that can sustain us. As Joseph Campbell highlighted man was expelled from the garden because he ate from the first tree, the “Tree of Knowledge”. The garden was the place of unity of none duality, “non-duality of male and female, none duality of man and God, none-duality of good and evil.” The tree of immortal life brings us back to paradise, to unity to life itself. Where two become one. This is identical to the tree that Buddha sits under, the tree of life is the universal symbol of life itself.

“l’chaim”, to life

Sadly it seems that so many folk are as afraid of life as we are of death. It seems to me that these ancient stories, in their essence at least, are trying to teach that death is in life as life is in death. This is the story of existence of which we are all a part of. Yet for me some reason we reject life in so many ways, we are frightened of being cast out of it, we crucify it, we torture it we persecute and distrust. We fear our own humanity, our mortality. We say there is no good in us and no good in the other.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We are born from “Original Blessing”, original goodness. This is our natural state, that too often we lose sight of. We are all formed from the tree of life, the tree of renewal, the tree of re-birth. We need to recognise this. Sometimes this comes when we lose something or someone precious to us, somehow in this suffering we turn back home again, we return to paradise. We find wholeness once again, we recognise our own sacredness and that of others. We return to the “Tree of Life” and we tend to it and it tends to us. Just as I did that rainy morning seeking shelter under the tree in Dunham Massey.

May we know this wisdom and may we bring it to life through our very being.

“l’chaim”, to life

I am going to end with a little bit of Mary Oliver “The Summer Day”. Mary has been singing in my heart a lot these last few days.

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Below is a devotion based on 
the material in this "blogspot"