Most of us hope that when we die, we are able to pass on with a little grace and dignity. However, what is important to me right now is living in the present moment, awake and aware to the flow of life, of awen, hearing the songs of the ancestors and truly finding the meaning of the word, grace, within my own life.

Grace is a brilliant word that has so many meaning: to favour, to honour, elegance or beauty in form, ease, fluidity, mercy, clemency and pardon, just to name a few. If we look to the Latin languages’ use of the word, we find echoes in the Italian grazie or Spanish gracias, or in the French merci.  The Latin root is grātia, meaning:  (1) a pleasing quality, (2) favour or goodwill, and (3) gratitude or thanks. All three of these I find are essential to living honourably in today’s world.

To have a pleasing quality can have a myriad of meanings, from being aesthetically pleasing to simply being kind. The key word in this description is please in a verb form, which is something that makes one happy, whether it is the self or another.  Why would we not want to make another happy?  As long as it isn’t at our own expense, or hurtful towards ourselves, it seems a wonderful way to live. When we are hurtful towards another person, it doesn’t make us feel very good – or if it does, there might be something rather wrong with the brain’s chemistry.  This doesn’t mean that our lives are not our own, and that we have to make others happy first – finding happiness within the self should come first, as should love for the self, in order to spread it around a little bit.  Finding a peace and contentment within helps us to bring that to others.  When we are not at peace with our sense of self, we cannot bring peace to others.

To have goodwill for others is at the heart of living with compassion, and also living with grace. The moment we wish another being harm, we have stepped outside of grace and into a hellish world of anger, retribution, revenge, bitterness and so on. We will not always immediately have good will for another being, especially if we have been hurt by someone in the past.  Sitting with our own hurt, and then recognising the other’s pain helps us to open up our perspective from just ourselves to the wider situation.  People who hurt others are often very hurt themselves.  Those who try to pick-apart, to undermine, to speak unkindly to/about, who cause emotional pain – we can work with this with grace. We can see their hurt, empathise with it (though we don’t have to engage it, especially if it means further hurt or abuse from them towards ourselves), and feel compassion for them. We can wish them well, wish them love and peace, which feeds our own inner peace and peace throughout the world.  The compassionate being is one who lives gracefully. (Please note: If you are being physically or psychologically abused, please do talk to someone about it right away and seek help.)

For me, perhaps the most important part of grace and its root word is to give thanks. To have gratitude is one of the key components of my Druid path, along with reverence, honour and compassion. When we have gratitude, again we step outside of our “small self” and enter into a way of being in which everything is part of everything else.  No longer separate from the world, we are able to experience a deep gratitude for the world, our experiences, our loves and our lives.  Our ancestors have brought us to where we are today, and it is through their strengths and weaknesses that we walk upon the earth.  Our future ancestors are the ones to which we will be accountable for our actions in the present moment.  Having a deep gratitude for our ancestors, not only human but also other-than-human ancestors helps us to see the inter-connectedness of all existence. Again, it shifts the perspective away from the self and into a broader, more integrated view.

This is the essence of grace – widening our world and our views, and in doing so living with kindness and compassion. It is something that is achievable for all, and something that will lead us to lives with more peace and harmony.  Listening to the notes of the Great Song, the Oran Mòr, we are able to move with grace, to live with grace and to extol grace upon others.


lotus-flowerKindness – in our modern Western world, this beautiful concept has become twisted, where in a “dog eat dog” world it equates to weakness.  We have to push, we have to grasp at life, beat out the other guy in order to get the biggest piece of the pie.

The truth is, there is no pie.

Forget what the media tells you, forget what other people may tell you, that you need to be better than others, that to show your humanity you will soon slide down that corporate ladder. There is no ladder either.

There is no me. There is no you. All is illusion.

We are all made up of each other, there can be no separation. The tree and the coyote, the fox and the mountain, the sunlight and your brother are all made up of matter and energy. Matter and energy cannot be destroyed. They cannot come out of nothing. They only wait for the right conditions to manifest, for the right circumstances in which to come into a form that we recognise. They are always there. We have always been here. We have always been a part of this world, and a part of each other.

As humans, we have become very judgemental beings. We allow our emotions and thoughts to overide the reality of many situations. It’s far easier to judge the behaviour of others than to look deeply at our own selves. Each time we judge something, we tighten up in our hearts and in our bodies.  An open heart is one that does is not judgemental. If there is no separation, there is nothing to judge.

We need to notice when we are forming judgements of people and of situations.  We need to see when we are contricting our souls, when we are not open to what life really is in this present moment. We need to really begin to know what the word kindness means.  If we truly see that we are all related, why would we be unkind to anyone or anything?

Do not believe in the illusion. Immerse yourself deeply in the awen, the poetic inspiration that opens the door to seeing the interconnectedness of all things.  Open your heart to the wonder that is life all around you. Look into the eyes of your supposed enemy, and see their condition of being. Look into the circumstances that created their life, and see yourself reflected in that. You are them and they are you.

Being aware of each judgement we make, being aware of our thoughts about other people, being aware of what is coming out of our mouth makes such a  difference to our lives.  When we speak ill of someone, we are doing ill to ourselves. When we treat others unkindly, we are being unkind to our selves. Our hearts do not like to be constricted.  The flow of awen, the flow of circulation in our bodies, the flow of a river or the flow of life itself moves better when we are open.

Our practice in life is simply kindness.  It’s not hard, but we make it hard for ourselves.  We have to lose our self-centred ego, our sense of self-importance, our sense that the world should be as we desire it to be, and not as it already is.  When we have stepped away from that way of being and move into a way of being that is centred on others, be they bird or bee, refugee child or murderer, basking shark or polar bear, we see that the world is much greater than the small worlds we create around ourselves.  We are released from anger and depression, hate and worry. We see how our little selves can take over, and we realise what is much more important that our little selves.


Have no fear – we will not become doormats for people to abuse if we are kind. We will not lose our place in life if we are kind. We will be happier, more free and really living as opposed to simply doing things.  Kindness is not weakness – it is the truest form of being. It takes courage to be kind to someone who has hurt us. We do not have to allow them to continue hurting us, but we do not need to seek revenge, or punish them for their actions. We can let them see that they have hurt us, and we can try to understand them with an open heart free of judgement. We can look critically at a situation without judging it, without letting emotion or non-factual elements into the equation. We can release our self-centred perception to get a look at the bigger picture, and try to help others instead of focusing on our selves.

It’s not easy, changing the way you think and behave. We have to really pay attention. We have to be really aware of how we are, how we react, what we say and do in any given situation. We need to look deeply into our being, through practice and meditation, through every single act of our waking lives. We have to be willing to change out of our old habits and our old ways of self-centred thinking. We have to try, again and again, to step outside of our little selves.

When we do, the world opens up in wonder.

May your life be filled with wonder.


Encounters with unkindness

Can you remember the last time you were unkind to someone? Or thoughtless about something? Chances are, it doesn’t make you feel all that good – it probably makes you feel smaller, inside. When I remember acts of unkindness, either done by myself or done to myself, I feel a squirming inside, an uneasiness.

Still working on thoughts with compassion, exploring  words and acts of unkindness has been an enlightening experience.  Looking deeply at how it made me feel, what my reactions were, what others’ reactions were, what the outcome was, how it could have been prevented – all these I have meditated upon these last few months.  What I’ve come to realise is that no one likes to be unkind. There is no joy from it; perhaps if you are mentally ill, or there is a function in the brain that is not working as it should, then maybe you don’t feel bad, but on the whole, unkind acts do not produce any joy, any feelings of wellness.

Through our connectivity to each other, we perhaps have a deep-rooted empathy that we can acknowledge, if only we allow our ego to fall away, to quiet down and listen to what others have to say above the racket in our own brain.  We all share a life force; we all share a space on this planet, in this universe.  We are all thinking and feeling animals – if you are an animist, you also acknowledge a consciousness and inherent value in all things.  As humans, we all breathe the same air, air expelled from the lungs of others, turned into oxygen through various other life forms, breathing and sharing, breathing and sharing, the life breath that our ancestors breathed thousands of years ago, the life breath our lover breathes right now.

The word “kind” can mean a generous, benevolent, good person or deed, act or consideration.  It can also mean to be of a like group of individuals or objects – being of the “same kind”.  What I would posit is that the two meanings are entwined – kind thoughts, acts and deeds are a direct result of and inspired by being of the same kind.

Being unkind is distancing your self from others, making a distinct split in compassion from others, sometimes even diving into self-centredness in an anthropocentric world view.  Yet this distance, this separation is false – we can never be other than another life form on this planet. Another life form – we are surrounded by others all the time. Some are seen, some unseen – some are natural forces that create and destroy with violence or beauty, others are microscopic and surreal in their manifestation.  Yet we are never alone.

I think that the natural human tendency is to be kind towards others, for we have a specific consciousness that allows us to see and feel the repercussions of our actions.  We have the capacity of forethought, yet we use it all too seldom.  We are homo sapiens, the beings that are aware that we are aware. If we truly are aware, then unkind thoughts and deeds would not ring true in our heart of hearts.  Awareness is a journey towards the cessation of suffering.  If we are truly aware, then our suffering is eased.

Awareness comes in many forms, from simply being in the present moment to an understanding of the grander scheme of things, or seeing things from outside of your own personal perspective.  For how often has our perspective been wrong?  When we have been unkind to others, chances are it is because our perspective was skewed, and we reacted badly to a situation.  If we remember compassion, and strive to see the bigger picture, then with a little discipline and a lot of love we can change or modify our behaviour to help ease the suffering of all beings.

Those people who are unkind are trapped, and it may be helpful to remember that.  When someone is unkind to us, we can act with compassion. Sometimes that may mean seeing things from their point of view. Sometimes it may be walking away from a situation with honour and integrity.  When we find ourselves being unkind, or remember past deeds that are less than glowing, we can remind ourselves that it is up to us to choose freedom over chains.  We don’t have to let our behaviour rule us.  We can be passionate and loving without allowing emotion to skew our perspective. Emotion is such a personal thing, that it’s no wonder our wires get crossed all the time. It’s all about perspective.

In all things, I try to remember two words: be kind.  x

* Sparked by a conversation I had today with a lovely chap and artist (known as Bird Radio – do have a listen, there’s some really good stuff here!  about perceptions, connectivity and many other things, this blog post simply poured out of me, and reminded me of the serendipitous nature of life and reality when it comes to, well, life!

Working with Kindness

Many religions and spiritualities the world over teach that kindness and compassion is the way to live your life in order the create harmony and peace not only for yourself, but for the rest of the world.  This is a form of service, which I think may be lacking in much of modern paganism.  It is in the service to others where we truly shine.  The Sisterhood of Avalon states it beautifully in a triad – service to the self, service to the Sisterhood and service to the Goddess.  Like most things, it starts from within and then spreads to the wider community and the world at large.  Sadly, perhaps due to the growing number of self-help books and various psychologies, this service tends to stop at the self.  Instant gratification in our capitalist society combined with living in relative ease can allow complacency in our lives and in our minds.  We can become grasping even, wanting to be healed, looking for that one thing or one person who will heal us, as we have been taught my marketing campaigns the world over.  Me, me me. I, I, I.

There seems to be a great need for healing in the world today.  Paganism embraces this healing with open arms, honouring it in all its various forms.  We are often told that we must first heal ourselves before we can heal others. In this, I very much agree.  It’s often the hardest thing to heal yourself – focusing on others is much easier than coming face to face with your own pain, grief, demons or shadow self.  However, we can become too engrossed in looking inwards that we forget to look outwards as well.  Too much self-awareness and not enough external awareness.  It can even border on or become egocentric.

The key here I believe lies in kindness.  Through these last few months, when the darkness of winter takes hold and we are gifted with the time and space to reflect, we can look at how we can be kind to ourselves.  This is the best thing we can do for ourselves in terms of our own healing.  It is easier to forgive others for hurting us, or causing us stress, grief or pain than it is to forgive ourselves for doing things that we regret.  Yet we must look at ourselves in the same light as we do others and be able to forgive ourselves in order to move the service from self to others, through the act of love and kindness.  This is our service to our self.

We have to be aware of our edges – we must create boundaries so that when we allow kindness to flow through us we have an awareness that not everyone will be kind in return.  This is not a shutting down or closing off of the soul to others – it is simply being prepared.  Like meeting a strange dog or cat for the first time, we are unsure as to how they will react, and so we proceed with caution.  We still show compassion and love and try to help them should they need it in any way possible. We will also do all that we can to prevent being bitten. This is our service to others.

I have been too open – I have not guarded my boundaries as well as I should have. I have loved freely and been bitten on the ass in return.  I have learned to use boundaries to let me help myself and to help others.  In Brian Froud’s latest faery oracle card deck, there is a card that I drew called The Lady of Faith.  She wears a helmet and shoulder armour, but her breast is bare of armour and she is leaning towards something with a hand to her heart.  This card shows that we must protect ourselves but still allow our hearts to move us in kindness and compassion.

I recently saw a documentary on Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame about how he transformed his life through his religion and coming to know God and Jesus.  While we may not share the same religious points of view we can agree that it all comes down to kindness.  He described when he was making a living fishing on the river and other “river rats” would come and steal from his nets.  After he had found Jesus, he worked with the idea of kindness and so, when he caught them stealing again, offered them the fish freely.  They took it and responded to his kindness by never stealing from him again.  Phil stated that he will act towards all things with kindness, but still carry a shotgun in case all things weren’t kind to him.

This is very similar to a Zen Buddhist story, where a monk is sitting and praying in his cave high on the mountaintop. A thief comes upon him and threatens him. The monk looks at the thief and states that if he wanted his possessions so badly, feeling he had to threaten and steal them, then he would freely give them if that was his need.  The thief left bewildered and the monk sat outside, looking up at the moon.  “If only I could have given him this beautiful moon”, he said. (Some argue that the monk should have done a Phil Roberston and had a shotgun as well, but that doesn’t fit in with the peaceful and non-violent ideals that the monk held to.)

Living to our ideals, exploring our shadow aspects (those aspects of the soul that we fear, that we loathe, that we deny) and giving back to the world results naturally in leading the way to the further service to the gods.  We dedicate our lives to kindness and compassion with full awareness and in doing so, reflect the true nature of not only our being, but of being.  For me, the gods that I follow all have an aspect of peace and kindness that we can find in their stories to inspire us along our own life’s journey.  Tyr, most often seen as a god of war and justice, to me also represents kindness to animals and loyalty as when he fed the wolf, Fenris, when no one else would.  Nehelennia, the goddess of the North Sea rages and leaves us with a fresh world – sometimes battered but ever inspired by the impermanence of all things.  Morrighan heals after the battles and rejuvenates after the blood is spilled.  Nemetona teaches of boundaries as well as love and peace.  In this I have dedicated myself to learning and being open to the awen of their songs.

Through coming into our own true potential, we are better able to serve ourselves, our community and our gods.  The key to it all is through kindness.  How very simple, how often this message had been repeated over thousands of years. How easy it is to forget in today’s society.  Yet when we open ourselves to the possibilities and let kindness lead us in our actions, peace and harmony are a natural result.