Working on excerpt from upcoming book, Zen Druidry

Hi peeps! Just to give you an idea of what I’m working on, here’s a short excerpt from one of my chapters from my new book, Zen Druidry. It’s all about combining the philosophy and spirituality of the two, where east meets west and flows into one path that leads to a life of awakening to the natural world, with full awareness. Enjoy!

Zen easily blends in with any form of religion, for it uses the gifts that you already possess, and emphasises the fact that you are perfect and perfectly who you are at this given moment in time – you can be no other.  As we saw, Zen is about living in the here and now, this very present moment, which does not exclude any higher or other powers should this be your belief system.  You could be a Zen Celtic Druid, a Zen Christian Druid, a Zen Animist Druid – the path is open to you and you only.  Each path is different.  You can make full use of the here and now and appreciate the natural world around you, its rhythms and sounds, smells and sights.  The main point is that Zen does not contradict any religions – in fact, it adds new dimensions.

While most Zen practitioners may be Buddhists, this need not restrict you to the teachings of Buddha.  If, like me, you find them beautiful and informative, feel free to incorporate them into your Druidry.  There is no monopoly on wisdom.  That wonderful saying about killing Buddha on the road when you meet him, for you are already perfect and Buddha cannot exist outside yourself, relates to Druidry on so many levels.  Each living thing is simply living, doing the best they can at that particular moment.  Realisation, perfection – it’s already there within each living thing.  Like a seed, you already carry that potential within your very self, and with the right nourishment and conditions, will blossom.

Zen, like Druidry, is in the living; in the doing.  It’s not an intellectual exercise.  We all have jobs, families, obligations. Many of us have felt a call to enrich these with devotion to causes, gods or goddesses, art.  There is nothing wrong with that – equally, there is nothing wrong with simply devoting oneself to living in the present moment with no external obligations.  It is in the doing that we create the most change in our lives, not in the thinking, or praying, or anything similar.

Let’s look at Buddha’s five noble precepts once more, and see how they relate to Druidry:-

  • The destruction of life causes suffering, so we learn compassion for all things and protect all that we can, whether it be the lives of people, plants or animals.  We refuse to kill, or to condone any acts of killing.

Many who follow the path of Druidry are vegetarian, seeing in our present day and culture no need to eat meat. The meat industry is so wasteful and so far from compassion that is abhorrent to many – any visit to a slaughterhouse will testify to this.  While there are Druids who eat meat, many of them have raised the animals themselves and can vouch for their living conditions, ensuring that there is the least amount of suffering possible.  More and more Druids have allotments, if there is not enough space in their own gardens, to grow and tend their own vegetables, and so to live with minimal impact upon our agriculture and our community.

There are also many Druids who do not condone any acts of war or violence.  Druidry acknowledges the spirit in each and every thing – though many find it harder to see that in humanity than in the natural world around us.  We close ourselves off to other humans in particular, for they appear to have much more power to hurt us than the tree at the bottom of the garden, or the grasshopper in the fields where we picnic.  By seeing that there is no “other”, that we are all related and connected, any act of violence is also done to ourselves.  Druidry is about opening to all forms of life and seeing the sacred in them all – yes, even in David Cameron or Margaret Thatcher.  We never said Druidry was easy!

  • Injustice exists in the world, and we vow to learn loving kindness so that we may work for the well-being of all, whether they be a person, a plant or an animal.  We learn the value of sharing, of helping the community, and refuse to steal or harm in any way.

We can’t escape it – the world is unfair. It is unjust.  Many people seek out justice to right this supposed wrong.  However, this justice can often be at the expense of others.  We involve other people in our “fight” for justice.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t upset the applecart every now and then, as long as it’s our own cart and no one else’s.  What we can do instead is to cultivate the attitude of loving kindness, which in Buddhism is termed as compassion.  In Druidry, I find that the word that most fits is empathy.  Much as we find ways to relate to the bee, the ant, our grandfather, so too should we find ways to relate to everyone else in this world, whether they are being unjust towards us or not. 

This is not pacifism.  This is taking an active role in bridging that gap between “us” and “them”.  We do not even have to like them, per se – we merely have to empathise with them.  It brings a whole new world view into focus, where we are all walking towards a path that sees the relativity in all living things.  In that relativity, we will only want to do good, to help others and the community. We realise that stealing is only stealing from ourselves.  And so, while we may try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, therefore ending up being a mile away and with their shoes – this doesn’t quite work, though it is a funny thought!  We can’t escape injustice, we cannot escape each other.  We can only learn how to live fully with empathy for all living things.  We’ll have to give them back their shoes.  They’re our own shoes after all.

  • Sexual relationships must be treated with full respect, and we must not engage in any sexual misconduct, for this causes suffering.  We must protect ourselves and others from sexual abuse and any other sexual misconduct. 

Many within Druidry see a sexual relationship as a very sacred thing.  It is not to be misused or abused in any way.  It is also a very natural thing and a very natural human tendency to want to express our feelings for others in a sexual manner.  For us humans nowadays, sex is not about procreation so much as an expression of our feelings for one another.  As such, we must be fully aware of each other’s feelings, and not hurt each other in any form, sexual or otherwise.  It a paradigm – both sacred and mundane.

If we have cultivated an attitude of empathy, of loving kindness, then we fully allow others to choose their own sexual path that causes no suffering to each other within the relationship.  We must also protect others who are being abused by a sexual relationship – we cannot condone acts such as paedophilia.   To each their own, as long as it harms none, whether that be a same sex relationship, a polyamorous relationship, or even a life of celibacy.  We cannot discriminate towards others in this very personal sphere, so long as there is no suffering involved.

  • Speech is a powerful thing – words have power.  We must speak with attention to what we are saying, with loving kindness and working to resolve conflict.  We must also listen with full attention to what others are saying.

We live in a verbal society.  Words, whether spoken or written, have power – hence the phrase “the power of the written word”.  We attach truth to the written word in many cases.  In Druidry, we recognise the gift of speech and the power that it has.  In Zen, we have learned how we often simply react to a situation, rather than engaging fully with it.  We must think before we speak, and be mindful of what we say.  The Druids, as we have seen, were often the resolvers of conflict, and what better way than through the power of speech.  Words cause conflict as often as they resolve it, and we must work towards the latter, for there is certainly enough of the former already! 

In Druidry, we learn to listen – to the blackbirds singing at dusk, to the airplane overhead, to the bee buzzing amongst the daisies.  So too should we learn to really listen to each other, and not merely hear them.  As stated before, too often we are “listening” to someone while already forming a reply in our own heads before they have even finished speaking.  Engaging fully with the moment means fully listening when someone is speaking.

  • Seek out the middle way – unmindful consumption causes suffering.  We vow to create good physical health in ourselves and others by being mindful of what we eat, drink, and consume in our society to create the least amount of suffering.

This is a big one in Druidry – being mindful consumers.  We see too many people, especially at Christmas time, engaging in a frenzied consumer state that doesn’t really benefit anyone at all except the corporations that prey upon a newly created meaning of that particular time of year.  We become aware of who we are buying from, if we cannot make or grow it ourselves. We become aware of the practices involved in getting the product to our doorstep, every step of the way.  We learn where our water comes from, how many food miles are in our bananas, whether they are organic or not.  It is a cultivated awareness of every aspect of our life, in the same way that Zen is.

Druidry is pretty much the antithesis of being wasteful – for that is sacrilegious towards Druidry.  Every disposable, non-organic diaper being thrown into a landfill is an affront to our world and to Druidry.  It is not only the external world around us that affects our Druidry – it begins with our own physical body.  Drinking, smoking, eating, taking drugs – these all are not “forbidden” in Druidry. It is in the excess of these things that causes suffering – alcoholism, cancer and emphysema, obesity and addiction.  Seeking out a middle ground – avoiding asceticism, for that is simply the other end of the spectrum of excess – gives us the best platform to ground ourselves and live a fully integrated life. 

These five precepts are an excellent starting point for merging Zen and Druidry. Yet we should remember that in Zen and in Druidry, our lives have already started, and we must live them fully! Right now!

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