Waves crash with a hiss and gurgle as I walk in silent meditation on the beach. The wind tugs furiously at the dry grasses dancing on the dunes. Arrows of sharp cold rain sing from the sky. The wind heightens in a sudden burst of fury and batters the coast. I am exhilarated with the wild energy of the storm.
I watch an eagle as it banks against the wind and struggles to lift herself above the gale. With a sudden scream, she ceases to struggle and letting go to the rhythm of the wind, she glides with graceful ease high above the ocean.
We too, like the eagle, must learn to dance with the winds of life. As we dance, we will experience both the exhilaration of flight but also the tumbling dive of our human limitations. Often bruised and bewildered, we continue to struggle in our pain, not knowing that all that is required is to surrender and dance with these winds of change and circumstance. In doing so, we glide with the eagle above the ocean of our tears into a clear blue, where our vistas expand and enlarge, creating new possibilities. The storm passes, as all storms will. The clouds part. Sunlight again drenches the land. The birds renew their song. We have survived.
I grew up in the city of Belfast. The original settlement was close to the convergence of the River Lagan and its tributaries. The silt from these rivers created a sandbar which became known locally as The Crossing Place. The name of Belfast in Gaelic Beal Feirsde literally means the mouth of, or approach to, the sandbank or crossing place.
It is the nature of the soul to bring us to many crossing places in life. There we are invited to leave behind the security of outmoded ways of being and take the risk of growing. Native American spirituality has a lovely way of explaining this. In their culture the Great Eagle symbolizes the Soul or Higher self. When we are born they say, Great Eagle falls into a deep sleep and dreams that he is awake. At a significant time in our individual life, often but not always at midlife, the Eagle within stirs awake and begins to take control, reminding us who we are and why we live.
It is then that the person finds her/himself at the edge of a boundary, at a crossing place between what is and what still can be. The challenge at this time is to open ourselves to this voice of the soul and follow its call. This is not an easy task. Many refuse to step out of what is familiar and leap with trust into the void of the unknown. We need strength, courage and support to take that first step, for we will encounter the guardian who stands sentinel at the crossing place and whispers seductively, “Go back! Go back! It’s not safe!”
Even if we hearken to this siren voice and turn aside from taking the journey of becoming, the Eagle’s cry will persist within us in many forms until we hear it. For in the mature years of our growing, the Eagle’s wings will beat persistently upon our hearts until it is cleft open and we learn to stand more honestly in relation to ourselves, our world and the unseen world of the Transcendent.
Growing up in Ireland, my former Catholicism was influenced and perhaps softened by a cultural heritage of Celtic Christian spirituality. This was something I simply caught rather than something I was formally taught and though I have long moved on from organized religion, the influence of that Celtic spirituality is still with me and continues to influence how I perceive my life.
The Druidic and Celtic spiritual tradition experienced all life as one, and recognized and celebrated the constant breaking through of the Divine into the mundane everyday realities of life. In Celtic understanding, we are not separate from nature. The natural world of earth, air, water and fire finds a home in us too. Nature was understood as a threshold where the Transcendent (the spiritual) and the immanent (the material and physical) meet. It is the place where the sacred mystery speaks to our world in metaphor and symbol, a direct expression of Divine imagination and creativity.
The passage of the seasons mirror the cyclical passages of our lives. The Celtic mind understood this and embraced life as an evolving spiral of birth, death and rebirth. As the years pass, we can meditate on how the turning of the seasons reflect the human journey of transformation both individually and collectively. We have all experienced a time of winter in our hearts when, like the tree which stands naked against the sky, we find what we thought was permanent and familiar change suddenly and slip from our control. But we have also experienced the spring of rebirth as the work of winter in our souls creates new growth and we learn to begin again. At times summer fullness has manifested in our lives perhaps in the joy of friendships, the love of our partner, work satisfaction or an artistic creation. Then Fall arrives in its golden beauty and like the tree which sheds last year’s foliage, we learn to let go of what no longer serves us. Then the cycle begins again. As the chaos and the despair of the world threatens and wearies our spirit, it is good to go into “the peace of wild things” and in the solitude and silence rethink our story in the context of mother nature’s cycles.
Welcome to my new blog and first post. This blog is an opportunity to share thoughts and reflections around the themes of spirituality, intuition, personal growth, creativity and creative expression, all of which are closely connected.
Can I be a spiritual person without a formal religion? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Spirituality can be defined as a cultivation of a sense of the sacred in life. There are many ways to do this. For some it is through formal religion. For others it will be through personal relationships, the healing arts, artistic expression, humanitarian service, a connection to nature or the simple art of homemaking. There is no one path-fits-all and all paths are valid. Anything that enlarges the heart and soul and awakens us to the depth of the sacred in every aspect of life, can be called spiritual.
The development of our spiritual selves requires commitment, skill and a deepening of insight and knowledge. It demands a loyalty to the whispers of that inner voice pointing the way. Intuitive guidance however must be grounded and tested for authenticity. There can be a thin dividing line between the authentic voice of the soul and symptoms of a mental illness. Developing the spirit within us does not mean a problem-free life as sometimes presented in the pseudo-spirituality of some New Age modalities. The purpose of developing our spiritual selves is to strengthen the spirit within and give our lives depth and meaning. In the process we will be challenged to face what we would rather deny, to accept the truth of who we are – both the beauty and the warts! The rewards are life giving and permanent.
Life is continually beckoning to us to grow into our full potential. We can choose to ignore the call or cooperate with the process and enter energetically into the adventure.The great spiritual author Thomas Moore tells us that a spiritual life of some kind is absolutely necessary for our emotional and psychological health. A mature and healthy spirituality holds together, mind and body, ideas and life, the shadows and the light, the seen and unseen reality, the individual and the world, the sacred and the secular.