Compassion on a Tuesday Morning

22 people died last night in a bombing of a pop concert in Manchester. The first thing I saw on my Facebook newsfeed this morning was a post from a friend, who had said that they had reached compassion capacity, and that they simply shrugged and got on with getting ready for work, as there was nothing they could do anyway.

I hope never, ever to become this way.

It is my firm belief that we only allow ourselves to be de-sensitised. No one can de-sensitise us in today’s easy, modern world (I’m talking about people who have decent jobs, put food on the table, have a place to live and also have money left over for some nice things, like socialising). It is a choice that we make to turn ourselves off to the world.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who are seriously hurting right now. They can’t shrug it off and go to work. They have lost children, parents, brothers and sisters. Those who survived are in pain, undergoing or awaiting surgery at one of the six hospitals in the area that took these emergencies. If these people can’t turn off, then I certainly can’t.

There is no limit to compassion. Let me repeat that: there is absolutely no limit to compassion. We can have compassion for anyone. That doesn’t mean we tolerate bad behaviour or condone violence in any way. It means that we do not turn off that very essence of what makes us human, that ability to feel, to empathise, to look deeper into an issue and to offer healing, support, prayers and love where and when we can. There is no limit to that.

Yes, there are some cases in our lives when we have to walk away from a bad situation. But we don’t have to turn ourselves off in the process. People have been horrendous to me, and I have needed to walk away. In doing so, I have not turned myself off, but sought compassion for myself, and gotten out of a bad situation so that my compassion for others would not be compromised. And the people who were horrendous to me, well, I only hope that they truly find the healing that they need, so that they stop doing it to others, and themselves.

It is all about the choices that we make. I was going to write a blog post today about choices, but that will follow in a consecutive post later this week or next week. This morning, I needed to focus on the events of last night, and my friend’s reaction to them. It saddened me greatly, and also angered me that people could make the choice to turn themselves off. We live in such a narcissistic society, that we only focus on ourselves. We often use the excuse that the only thing that we can change is ourselves, however, for me in that context it is just that: an excuse. When we see suffering in the world, if we only focus on ourselves, then how do we stop the suffering of others? Yes, we need to heal ourselves, but we also need healing for the world at large. If we are always looking inwards, then we are ignoring the outer world that is very much a part of our reality and existence. Just because we choose to ignore it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

If everyone ignored the suffering in the world, then there wouldn’t be organisations dedicated to helping others, when human or non-human. Greenpeace, The Red Cross, Amnesty International; these would not exist. We have to look beyond the scope of our little world and realise that we are very much part of the whole. We co-create the world that we live in. We co-create our reality.

What do I mean by that? Well, I often hear the saying that “we create our own reality.” This isn’t true, because there are many factors in life that aren’t under our control. The child in Aleppo did not create the reality of a war-torn city. We are responsible for what we bring into the world, and we also have to realise that we share this world with others who are bringing their own stuff into the mix, and therefore into our reality. Ignoring this does not make it go away. If I ignored what happened last night and simply got on with my day, then this blog post would not be written. I would not be sharing my words and thoughts with you. I would not be exploring the themes of suffering and compassion, and how to make this world a better place for everyone.

I will not turn myself off to the suffering in the world. Sometimes, there may not be much I can do about it, but if I turn myself off then I will bring that into my own little world, my local environment, which leads to a de-sensitivity to that area. It will trickle down into my everyday life, from my relationship to my husband, to my friends, to the lady at the post office. When we de-sensitise ourselves at a national or global level, we are fooling ourselves if we think that doesn’t seep into our everyday life, our everyday interactions with people, with the world.

My thoughts and prayers for the families of last night’s tragedy may not have an immediate or direct affect upon them personally. The children who are orphaned in Syria, with no place to go, are again not immediately affected by my thoughts and prayers. Neither are the badgers being culled, or the battered woman seeking a place to sleep for the night in a non-government funded women’s shelter. But I am affected by this, and so is everyone around me. I will not lose my compassion, and open my heart to everyone who I do come into contact with. I will try to make this world a better place, to live in harmony and to promote peace. If I turn myself off to the suffering, how can I promote peace?

We are making a choice, when we ignore the suffering. Sometimes there is a line, where we have to walk away from a bad situation because we ourselves are at risk. That is usually because we are suffering to a large extent, due to myriad factors, most of them beyond our control. We all need to retreat every now and then, to lick our wounds and to heal. On my darkest days, when the suffering in the world overwhelms me, when the aching in my bones and joints moves from the dull to the sharp, I need to take a step away. But that doesn’t mean I shut myself off completely. I still have compassion for others. I need to take care of myself, certainly, but I do not forget others. I do not forget that the world is more than just me.

Compassion is all about choice.

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won’t understand
“Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away”
It’s a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting it’s shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we’re all alone
In the dream of the proud
On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
Mesmerised as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night
No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It’s not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away   – Pink Floyd

Contribute/Subscribe to Down the Forest Path

Down the Forest Path has been going for many years now, thanks to the support of all the readers. It is getting increasingly difficult for authors to make a living doing what they do, and so a financial contribution that you can make towards the continuation of this blog would be greatly appreciated. I’ve added a new page to this blog for Contributions/Subscriptions to that effect.

Each post is carefully crafted, providing the content that continues the high standard to which this blog strives each and every day to achieve. It takes a lot of time to keep up this blog, time out from “paid” work, or promotional/administrative work to share with you all insights, information, the highs and lows of everyday life and more.

writers passion of creation

Leonid Pasternak’s The Passion of Creation

The royalties that most authors make from the sale of their books is a pittance. Sadly, most authors (myself included) are paid net, not gross, and so we only get our 10% after everyone else has taken their cut. That means we don’t get 10% on the RRP noted on the backcover of our books. For some books, it is literally pennies that we get. And now, with the new changes to Amazon’s buy button, we can often not get paid anything at all for the sale of a book. “Other sellers” on Amazon are killing us financially, and if they buy the books direct from the publisher (some do, some don’t) then they can buy them at a greater discount that even the author is afforded (author discount is usually 50% off RRP, other sellers/distributors are offered a starting discount of 60% and often get it for 70% discount from the publishers).

It’s a tough field to work in, that’s for certain. Many artists and musicians are in the same boat, in today’s political and economic climate. We must value the arts as we have in the past, because they are such a huge part of our being, an expression of our souls. If we cannot express or forget this very essential part of our being, what kind of world are we creating? Already the first thing to be cut from school programs are the arts, and it’s a terrible shame. Artists and writers also understand that many people are not able to contribute to the arts, as all money is spent simply getting food on the table and keeping a roof over your head, mostly because they are in the same metaphorical boat.

So, only if you can, please consider subscribing for only £10 a year to the further continuance of this blog, to ensure that it stays around for many more years to come.

May we be the awen.

 

Beltane Encounters with the Otherworld

The energy of the ritual still hung in the air, shimmering in the light of the Beltane full moon. I was alone in the garden, tidying up the lanterns and getting ready to put the fire to bed. As I walked down the garden steps, my offering of milk and honey in my hands, I made my way across the lawn to where the altar and offering place lay beneath the canopy of an old beech, its leaves just beginning to bud. I said a quick prayer as I entered that sacred space, with nine small stones delineating the boundary of this “faerie circle”, a minilithic stone circle that I built last year.

As I walked into the circle, I felt the air thick with the magic of the evening. I knew something was about to happen. I laid the food and drink upon the altar, and gave my thanks to the spirits of place, and to the Good Folk. No sooner had the words left my mouth, than a rustling in the hedge all around me began, as if some strange wind was shaking just the coniferous boundary of my garden, or a small army of badgers were all coming through the little holes in the hedge at the same time. My heart pounded in my chest as the moon shone through the branches of the beech above me. Frozen in place, excited and both frightened to see what happened next, I tried to see into the darkness of the hedge, shadowed from the moon’s light, but I could perceive nothing but the inky blackness.

The rustling all around me stopped, and I found I was able to move. I knew that something had come through the hole in the hedge, but I could not see it. Slowly I walked towards the firepit, hoping to see what had come through by the light of the fire. I cautiously approached the dying flames, and peered into the shadows about ten feet away. I could see very little, but I felt a presence, someone – male – standing by the birdfeeder and the hole in the hedge, standing shoulder-height to me, dressed in shades of brown. Suddenly, even as I looked and felt his presence, he moved without a sound like a dark shadow in the blink of an eye back into the hedge, and there from the depths of the green and black two eyes shone a whitish/green, reflecting the light of the fire. Whatever that being was, he had changed into the form of a badger in the blink of an eye, to watch me from the depths of the back hedgerow.

“Beltane blessings,” I murmured. Unsure of what to do next and still very much afraid and alone, I curtseyed and then covered the firepit with its iron mesh guard, walking back slowly towards the house. I had wanted to ask for his friendship, and for that of all the Good Folk, but my courage failed me on that night of the full moon, as the powers of Beltane and the Otherwold flowed through the land.

I only hope that he will return, and soon.

Honour-bound is HERE!!!

The day has finally arrived – my first fantasy fiction novel is now available in paperback, and will soon be available for Kindle in a couple of days. So chuffed to have this out again, and it’s been a lot of hard work, formatting, cover design, and more. To order your copy, click HERE! (Available worldwide)

Honourbound_Cover_for_Kindle

Available now! Click HERE for more details.

Rescuing the Druid

Reblog from my channel at SageWoman

We all have our ups and downs in life, and these can certainly vary dependent upon many factors: genetics, environment, disposition, culture, upbringing and more. The Druid faces the same challenges as many others do in their journey through life; being a Druid is no different in what the world throws at you.

What is different is how you deal with what comes your way. That doesn’t mean as a Druid you won’t suffer from depression, or heartbreak, grief or anxiety. But the methods that we use to face these challenges helps us to understand ourselves, and each other, a little better, and learn where we fit in the holistic scheme of things.

I’ve faced many challenges in my life, and still continue to do so on a daily basis. One challenge that I faced over this winter was my love and enthusiasm for dance had gone. For the last six months, I was seriously considering quitting dancing altogether. For over a year the question of my love for it had been rolling around in my brain. Over the winter holiday period, I was this close to giving it up completely. In fact, I had made up my mind that upon my return to England, I would inform my dance class.

And then I heard a song. A beautiful song, played on the harp by a talented Canadian harpist, Sharlene Wallace. My mother had the television on a “New Age” radio station, and I was reading in the living room, with one ear on the music. I heard a song, and liked it, looking up a the screen and seeing the artist’s name and the album it was from. I went online to find out more, and bought the album.

Sitting in my room later, after purchasing and downloading the album, I watched the snow fall outside the window and let the music enter into my soul, enchanting my being. And then one particular song came on, “Habanera Gris”.

This song instantly ignited my love and passion for dance once again. Hearing, it, I could see how movement would flow through the melody, how it could be expressed through dance. It was beautiful, haunting, soothing and simple. I HAD to dance to this song.

And so, when I returned home to England after visiting my family in Canada, I began choreographing a dance to this song. The ladies in my dance class loved the music, and though at first it was challenging (as it was quite different from other things we had done before) we soon fell into the rhythm and now it is one of our best-loved dances.

And to top it all off, we performed it this past May Day weekend for the first time. We put the video up on YouTube, and today I was absolutely delighted to be contacted by the composer of “Habanera Gris”, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, who said: “”Thank you for dancing to my composition HABANERA GRIS. I love to see the many interpretations of my music by musicians and dancers. I hope you will continue enjoying my music for a very long time.”

It was an honour to have him comment on our video, and I shared the fact that I had nearly given up on my dancing before I heard his song.

When we are at our lowest, as Druids, we need to go and seek out the awen, the inspiration. Listen to music. Go for a walk in nature and allow nature to inspire you. Look deeply into nature. Go and look at art, or better yet, create your own. Be inspired by others, because often when we are at our lowest, it is because we need that re-injection, that re-fuelling of inspiration. Often we have given out all we have to give, and not replenished it appropriately.

The cycle of Awen is one of give and take, of inspiring others and being inspired in return. It’s beautiful. Thank you, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz. Thank you so very, very much.

Druid College and Earth Day

Well, another brilliant weekend of Druid College has come and gone. We’re nearing the end of our Year 2 programme, and getting ready for the apprentices to declare their Chair, their work for Year 3. It’s an exciting time for me, to see what direction each person will take in their path to being a priest of nature, and to help guide them on their personal journey.

Some of the elements that we covered this weekend really stand out for me: crafting sacred ritual and exploring the ecstatic in ritual. As the Saturday of our weekend also coincided with Earth Day, we decided to create a ritual using the energy of the day, alongside the millions of other intentions the world over for peace, harmony and respect for this planet we call home. As Druidry is all about crafting sacred relationship, we used the time and tide as an opportunity to ride the waves of energy and, hopefully, the winds of change.

In the morning we got together and discussed the intention of the ritual, and how we could go about manifesting that intention. We hadn’t used ritual drama before, and so I suggested that Robin (our other course leader and a brilliant storyteller and actor) take on the role of someone who has lost their connection with nature, with the earth, with the fact that we are all related. In sacred space, we invited the personification of this energy, and Robin played the part to the hilt. It was difficult to hear the words he spoke (rather, yelled) in the peaceful setting of the woodland where we stood, the scent of bluebells surrounding us, the mallard ducks flying in and out of the pond next to us. Word of racism, environmental destruction, classism and more were flung into our space from the voice of a wounded individual who had lost that sense of connection, who represented everything that we work in our daily lives to heal. We had heard these words in the media, from people on the street, perhaps even from family members, words of the uselessness of nature except as a resource, words of nationalism and “foreigners”, words of the necessity of cheap manufactured goods despite the cost to human and non-human lives and more.

Then we created a container for that energy. Like an oil spill, we contained the negativity by creating a circle around the energy, holding it and stating that we will not allow it to infiltrate into our lives, and do everything we can to change and transform that energy. Circling Robin, we held hands and took in that energy.

We then needed to transform it, and so in a cauldron filled with water from the Red Spring in Glasbontury (Chalice Well) we spoke words of how we will transform that energy in our own lives.  Aware of what we can and cannot control, we decided how best we can transform and create a counter-balance to the destruction of the sacred and the values of sustainable relationship that we hold so dearly. We can change ourselves, first and foremost, and that energy will ripple outwards. And so, bringing our lips close to the cauldron we spoke, of loving friends and family despite their flaws, of working on how to heal ourselves, of how we can affect our local environment, community and more. Changing ourselves, we change the world.

We then used an elixir of vervain, created by the waters of the Red Spring and White Spring, blessed by the light of the full moon, and added three drops to the cauldron filled with holy water and our intention. Through the magic of herbs and intention, the water was blessed and transformed to heal and nourish all.

We then created a circle once more, holding hands and feeling the energy of community strong. We then opened our circle and allowed a space for Robin to join us, should he so wish. In his character, he was unsure of whether he wanted to join us or remain as he was, and so we simply stated that the circle was open to him when and if he was every ready to join. There was always room at the table.

A healing sound bath followed, where we each took up an instrument with beautiful vibrational energy, and the air was cleared with the soft sounds we created, mingling with the songs of the robins and blackbirds, the wind through the new leaves in the trees, the glow of the bluebells bright in their basking in the warm spring sunshine.

All in all, it was a wonderful ritual, created by the group and one in which everyone had a part to play, both in the ritual circle and afterwards in their own lives. A very transformational ritual, to say the least.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all involved in Druid College over the last two years, who have shared in this wonderful journey. I look forward to many more years to come.