Category Archives: religion

The Thin Place

via Daily Prompt: Thin

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Photo: My thin places are the bush: A walk trail near Bridgetown.

The ancient Celts believed that there were places one could go where people and the spirit world could touch. The Celtic influence on Christianity was such that this belief carried over, that the veil between heaven and earth was thin or transparent. The barrier between human and the divine were almost non-existent. For the ancient Celts these places were mostly forrest groves, but in other cultures they are rivers, billabongs, monoliths, mountain-tops, caves and more.

Not the same, but related in some aspects, the Australian Indigenous peoples created songlines, which trace the creation of the land, the fauna and lore, by ancestral spirits. Indigenous Australians used the songlines as navigation paths, for social connection, cultural knowledge – especially coming to know the flora and fauna, the availability of water, the types of seasons, and how it all came to be. Songlines are places to touch the past and the present.

My thin places are in the bush, these are liminal, threshold places, where the mind transcends the ordinary, where the soul is restored, where the heart is lifted, and the eyes are filled.

Thin places might be Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Uluru, Chartres Cathedral, the Pyramids, the Himalayas, the stars, meditation, music, art, and more, places or experiences of place that awaken the soul to something more, something outside the self, something veiled but near. Whether or not this is a spiritual experience or a transcendence of some other kind, thin places are restorative, they are places of contemplation, places of beauty, awe, play, rest, and renewal. We all need thin places, we will know them differently, but we will know them. They are treasures to fill the soul.

John O’Donohue wrote: “When you begin to sense that your imagination is the place where you are most divine, you feel called to clean out of your mind all the worn and shabby furniture of thought. You wish to refurbish yourself with living thought so that you can begin to see.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under bush walking, Country, history, life, mindfulness, nature, religion

Laughter Is The Good Medicine

via Daily Prompt: Laughter

Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean.

In a documentary he did on comedy I remember Atkinson saying that he’d modelled Bean on the great silent comedy actors, Buster Keaton in particular. Atkinson was quite serious about his comedy. Mr. Bean is not everyone’s cup of tea though. Comedy is a matter of taste, some people struggle to laugh at contrived misfortune, others don’t get certain types of jokes. I love all types of humour, and I struggle to be serious for too long. I think life without humour becomes a rut, which “is a grave with both ends kicked out” (attributed to Earl Nightingale). Unfortunately we have entered an age of poltical correctness that won’t allow for certain types of humour –  it would be hard to imagine Benny Hill starting out now.

I thoroughly enjoy the slapstick of Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the satire of Monty Python or Littel Britain, the black humour of Blackadder, the innocent humour of the Vicar of Dibbley or Keeping Up Appearances, and the pointed humour of Yes Minister. The gentle humour in Friends, or the raucous Seinfeld, political humour with John Stewart. Some of you may remember Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, in Australia the Graham Kennedy Show, the Glass house and so on, too many to list here.

Humour is even acknowledged in religion. Osho taught that laughter was releasing, and held sessions in laughter release, he also taught that laughter brought energy to the fore and was for a few moments a meditative state. Both Jesus and St. Paul used sarcasm. The Christian Pentecostal movement encouraged holy laughter as healing. In the Medieval Church a mass was developed in France where the lowest of society were invited to take high position and celebrate their own version of the mass, a social inversion, pure comedy. It was an attempt to offer an opporunity to release social pressure.  Naturally, the Church hierarchy were horrified, but the Feast Of Fools is still celebrated (and still upsets serious minded purists, which in my view is a good thing). In his book, “My Spiritual Journey” the Dalai Lama, reflecting on the many sadnesses of exile and hardship, says: “… I am a professional laugher …”  There is even laugher yoga.

Laughter is also homespun, families have their own treasure chest of humourous moments. Some yo uhave had to have been there to really get the humour. Mine include dad handing mum the steering wheel when it detached from the column (as we entered the school parking lot). Or when our family were at a Chinese restaurant and the vegetable oil for the sizzle dish spilled onto a napkin and my yongest son said: “I’ll help” and tried to blow it out, turning it into a blow torch that set fire to my beard (fortunately quickly doused). We are still laughing.

Laughter is releasing and it is claimed that it brings several health benefits. It destresses, uplifts, it is contagious, breaks down barriers, is enjoyable … Some of you would be familiar with the maxim of the Readers Digest – “laughter is the best medicine.” I certianly feel much better after a good laugh.

I love a good laugh and I don’t mind being laughed about. I like ot think I’m a professional laugher – I hope you are too.

For those who are more serious minded a video about laughter 😊

sitting for dinner
my beard is aflame now
laughter douses it

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

14 Comments

Filed under Haiku, history, life, mindfulness, Philosophy/Theology, psychology, quote, religion, self-development, Uncategorized

Tides

via Daily Prompt: Tide

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The tide coming in at the Wilson Inlet, Denmark, Western Australia.

Rachel Carson, to whom we all owe a debt of thanks for her tireless work in advocating for the protection of nature, once said: “The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities … If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called “The Tides.” An autobiographical  poem that speaks of despair (the loss of his wife) and the rediscovery of joy (the tide upbore – lifted him up) as the tide lifts him from despair.

"The Tides" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

I saw the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand,
And hurrying came on the defenceless land
The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar.
All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love,laughter, and the exultant joy of song
Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er me
They swept again from their deep ocean bed,
And in a tumult of delight, and strong
As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.

But none ever so bleak as Matthew Arnold’s famous poem “Dover Beach.” A poem that is thought to be four very loosely connected sonnets about change. The third stanza tells how the tide is representative of the institution of the Chrisitan Church, that it is fading lifke the receding tide.

From "Dover Beach" Matthew Arnold, stanza three:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and rounded earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Arnold would have been a contemporary of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote “God is dead.” (“The Gay Science” 1882) The way I read Nietzsche, is the way I read Arnold, they are simply pointing out that the institution of religion was dying, and the idea of God (the Medieval, the Christendom, God) was dying. For me that has been a positive, the old had to die for the new to come to life. Just as the tide goes out, it also, with equal regularity comes in again. this is its natural rhythm. Religion as a political power elite has been receding for some time, thankfully, and spirituality and mindfulness have entered that space. The absurd God of tribalism and petty moral values has died, thankfully, and a new sense of the divine has enetered, a more communal and relational divine.

So, in the end, I really resonate with Longfellow’s last line from “The Tides” –  “And in a tumult of delight, and strong as youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.”  The tides of Arnold and Nietzche simply wash away the dross of what ails religion, while the tide of Longfellow indicates hope in a season of loss and grief in an uplifting tumult of delight.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under beach, Country, life, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology, poetry, quote, religion

I Churn For You

via Daily Prompt: Churn

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Image from b-i.forbesimg.com

Lyn’s parents left us a milk separator, and butter paddles, there was even an old milk churn in the shed, but no butter churn. Milk separators do just that, separate the cream/butter fat from the milk. Milk churns are misnamed in my view – they’re just a large metal container for transporting milk. Butter paddles and butter churns do something else, they turn the butter fat from the milk into actual butter, they produce something.

Emotionally we churn. Surely you’ve heard the term butterflies in the stomach, a reference to mild worry. I don’t make a habit of it, my stomach rarely churns, but there are those rare occasions. If I’m going to churn it will be heights. I was fearful of flying, and my first few flights were nerve wracking, but I’m getting better at it. I engaged with abseiling, that was certainly nerve wracking, but I found I could even enjoy it. But with each activity, the night before I would be churning, worrying, mulling it over. By the morning I was no better, often exhausted from all the useless churning because my sleep had been interrupted or prevented by all the worry. Now it’s different, I find a mindful approach is helpful.

All the ancient cultures and religions relate strong emotional fellings to the stomach, hence the term “I have a gut feeling.” A churning stomach is, for many, a far too regular experience. Churning stomach often results from anxiety and stress. While the habit in days gone by (in the West) was to prescribe something, eventually there was a realization that worry was different to stomach ailments or sickness. A churning stomach is simply the body getting our attention that we need to make some adjustments to whatever the body is registering.

The ancient cultures and religions, (and now) modern medicine, suggest more simple, even commensense remedies to help end the churning: Adjusting diet (reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol, other stimulants, large meals in general), exercising, and ensuring adequate sleep. In addition, and more importantly, a mindful approach is beneficial: adjust your breathing (awareness, calm breathing), relaxation, reduce stress (awareness), meditate, rest, and adjust whatever it is that is the cause of your churning. If we don’t take steps to adjust and change, then why expect anything to be different? For me, rest, creativity (simply writing or painting is a wonderful reframing), exercise, and meditation make all the difference. Stop, breathe, reframe, and arrest the churn.

Paul,

pvcann.com

6 Comments

Filed under Farm, life, meditation, mindfulness, psychology, religion, self-development

Betrayal Hurts

via Daily Prompt: Betrayed

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Photo: moviedb.org  – Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, the spy who takes on one more mission in East Germany, only to discover layer upon layer of deception, and his own betrayal (‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ by John le Carre), a story often used, and most recently in Atomic Blonde (from the graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’).

We’ve all tasted betrayal.

Betrayal is an auspicious topic for Good Friday. Today recognises the crucifixion of Jesus. One particular detail in the story, is the cold and public betrayal by his disciple Judas. Judas is dazzled by money, he’d been stealing from the communal purse and now he was enamoured with the thirty pieces of silver he was offered to publicly identify Jesus to an arrest party. As the story goes, Judas leads a party of soldiers and police to where Jesus is, and identifies Jesus by greeting and kissing him. Essentially the kiss of death for a man he professed to follow.

There are many classic stories of betrayal. The Song of the Niebulungs which tells of the betrayal of the dragon slayer Siegfried. Odin was considered by the Norse to be the god of frenzy and betrayal. Euripides’ famous story of how Jason abandons his wife Medea for a younger woman is chilling, it ends badly.

Modern stories abound. Anything by Graham Greene, but especially ‘The End of the Affair’, and classic spy stories are essentially betrayal stories especially as written by John le Carre.

The stories of betrayal, whether true or fiction, actually bear out the popular saying: “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies, it comes from your friends and loved ones.” That’s why it hurts so much. Siegfried’s wife takes revenge, Medea kills the children, Alec Leamas chooses death even when he is able to reach freedom. We’re not told what Jesus thinks about betrayal, but he is consistent with his teaching about forgiveness and love, he refuses to stoop to the level of those who whip and kill him.

But for us mere mortals there is a piece of very sound advice to heed: “If someone betrays you once, it’s their fault; if they betray you twice, it’s your fault.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) Clearly boundaries matter. But even then …

I find myself drawn to what Jesus lived and taught – that forgiveness (properly understood) is life giving.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, history, life, love, Mythology, psychology, religion, self-development, Spirituality

The Four Quartets

Quartet

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I love music of many kinds, so quartet brings to mind the Norwegian musicians – Vertavo String Quartet, or from a jazz perspective, the John Coltrane Quartet. However, What is forever etched on my mind are four poems,  the ‘Four Quartets’ by T.S. Eliot.

The ‘Four Quartets’ are reflective meditations on humanity’s relationship with time. Eliot engages spiritual themes, and philosophy, and includes such influences as John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich (mystics), presocratic thinkers (Greek philosophy), and the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu).  The poems were written between 1936 and 1945 and originally published separately, until 1948 when Faber published them in one volume. The period in which he wote these poems is perhaps indicative of the content. The threat of war, followed by the long war and the blitz, which he endured, must have impacted his sense of mortality and time.

The Quartets are: ‘Burn Norton’, ‘East Coker’, ‘The Dry Salvages’, and ‘Little Gidding.’

My favourite of the four is Little Gidding, simply because it contains a profound observation of the human condition that is neither perfunctory, nor damning, but rather, somehow, encouraging. That observation of Eliot’s comes in part five of ‘Little Gidding.’

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

As I’ve quoted before, Proust puts it well when he says: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Eliot is not at odds with Proust in this. He too is suggesting that we humans are curious, we are seekers of truth, of belief, fact, geography, place and space, and more. But, in spite of great travels and in spite of much learning, eventually we return to our roots, our beginning points, and see them afresh.

For me that means seeing the horizons of body, mind and soul with new inner eyes, being able to see with the eyes of wholeness, forgiveness, love, kindness, compassion, and self-giving. Eliot also speaks of how experience is transformative (if we allow it to be so). He also speaks to how we mature in those experiences along life’s journey, and how time affects us, that aging and experience might afford us opportunity to see ourselves afresh. We engage with our youthfulness and “kick the traces” as we used to say, rebelling; we turn to masks, we invent personae for the public I, denial is the trope of our lives. But in the end, at our very core, there is only ever, our true self, if we but look carefully. And if we attend to our true self, accept our self, loev our self, we see ourselves whole as if for the first time.

In a stark reminder, he’s also suggesting that, as with the story of Adam and Eve, so with all of us, we never leave the awkwardness of self-awareness, separation, and a sense even an anxiety, that we could do better we could be someone. All of us strive to overcome those things, but find that we were/are, perhaps, a little too hard on ourselves and that we just need to see ourselves as good. The journey we engage is one to be whole and perfect, but yet, the end of our searching leads us back to where we began, that we were indeed whole in the first place, and that nothing is ever perfect.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under history, life, mindfulness, Philosophy/Theology, poetry, religion, Spirituality

Identical Triangles

via Daily Prompt: Identical

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The Gemstone Buildings – Shenzen. A series of identical triangles become both the strength and design of this building. I have a memory from school days, that identical triangles are a strong foundation for building, and are a basis for architecture.

The Jewish wisdom tradition includes the book of Ecclesiastes, which contains this gem: “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” which became a principle of modern rope-making. Roof trusses, honeycomed cardboard packing, bridge frames, bicycle wheel spokes, a fulcrum, all rely on three. In all the faith traditions of the world three is a significant number. A day broken into thirds of work, rest and play is a healthy process. And who remembers the dictum – meat and three veg for dinner? And, just for good measure, 3 is the first odd prime number. Clearly, there is something about three.

I think this speaks to the makeup, or potential awareness of the person: body, mind, and soul, perhaps the most important three of all. If we keep body, mind and soul in balance, I believe we are stonger, like the unbreakable cord. Three seems to keep a balance that one cannot provide, and two complicates, and where four potentially cancels out into two pairs. Whereas three creates a balance of thirds in all we do. Identical triangles can be one or two dimensional technical drawings. But as an object, identical triangles can be a thing of beauty and strength. But even more, the triangular of life, embodied in practice, friendships, groups, lifestyle patterns, and above all, keeping the balance of body, mind and soul is crucial for life to flourish and grow.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under life, mindfulness, Philosophy/Theology, religion, self-development, Spirituality

Just Typical

via Daily Prompt: Typical

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A typical south coast scene, no whales to see though.

I wonder when you last refelcted on what is your typical pattern, your typical day, your typical behaviour (of which you’d best ask others opinion, as we’re a little blind to our quirks sometimes)? When was the last time you reviewed what is typical? The question is not aimed at getting you to change, just simply to become aware. On the other hand, who knows, maybe it’s time to change something(s). Could be anything, from social media habits, to one’s personal morning or evening regime, relationship patterns. It could be addressing blind spots, relationship black spots, or attending to awareness.

For me it has been to slow down my typical social media output and participation time, to set aside the news feeds (and the negativity) over the past two years.

Lyn and I participated in the Gottman Institute’s 30 day marriage challenge, a series of challenges to patterns and thinking and blind spots, a wonderful refreshment and conversation that has been deeply enriching for both of us. One of the outcomes has been to reorder our typical day which was in dire need of change. Not everyone can live in my chaos.

My intentional spiritual path is Christian (within the contemplative path) and for the great fast of Lent I chose to start simplifying my life by stripping out some of the collected detritus of life. I am a typical hoarder. I didn’t want to go hard core like the Minimalist Guys on a set scale, but to meander and ponder my way through it. So far so good, clothes, trinkets, books, have all been culled. Haven’t done that in years and felt great to lose some of that weight.

For me, reflecting on my typical patterns and processes has not only been productive and helpful, it has refreshed and invigorated my life, an, I have a new awareness of myself and those around me.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under life, love, mindfulness, minimalism, nature, Philosophy/Theology, religion, self-development, Spirituality

Get a Perspective

via Daily Prompt: Above

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There’s something about being on top of a mountain, or even just a rise. The views can be eyecatching, if not stunning. There’s something even more about being high enough to be in the clouds, it’s an ethereal experience. The air is cooler, the mist turns to rain, the clouds swirl as the wind pushes against the mountain, apart from the birds, the wind and rain, there is no noise, no unnatural noise. And, if there’s a gap in the cloud, you can see for miles. It’s a totally different perspective to the ground level view.

The ancients liked to think that mountains were close to their deity, the mountains reached up to the heavens, so they must be sacred places of meeting between gods and people. The people of Israel had a special affinity with Mt. Sinai where Moses received the content of the ten commands. For the ancient Greeks Mt. Olympus was the home of the Greek Gods, and Mt. Athos was the holy mountain. In Tibet Mt. Kaillash is sacred, for the Incas it was Macchu Picchu, in Japan Koya-san is sacred, in Australia Uluru is sacred, and in New Zealand it is Mt. Taranaki. There are many more, and there isn’t a geographical region that doesn’t have a sacred mountain, such that it would suggest that the ancients felt a deep spiritual connection with certain mountains, and the fact that this crosses over every culture and continent is significant.

Mountains are places for reflection, meditation, you can also clear your head. So for me there is a mindfulness about being up a mountain, or a rock or a rise. And it speaks to perespective, how we see something in overview, as oposed to ground level view where everything is foreshortened and not so visisble. Being above ourselves in a mindful observing way, might give us perspective on our growth, our goals, behaviour and so on. Being above community in a mindful observing way might give us a better perspective on our relationships, what might be really happening, we might see potential, possibility, and gain a sense of hope.

There is also the opportunity to put ourselves in perspective simply by the sheer disparity in our own smallness in comparison to the height of the rise, and the vast plains below. So in that sense, we can prevent ourselves from literally getting above ourselves in a negative sense, and maintain a balanced perspective of self and life. Take an overview from above, and get a different perspective.

Paul,

pvcann.com

9 Comments

Filed under bush walking, environment, life, nature, religion, Spirituality