The Expectation of Huath

Huath is the 6th few in the Ogham alphabet, but the first one of the second aicme. It’s tree is the hawthorn.

There are many things we can’t see the outcome of, and yet we are expecting something to happen. Can’t do much about it, or even prepare – how do you prepare for the unknown? You won’t know what it’s like until you get there and experience it first hand. But until then, you just wait. That’s my life right now; I’m expecting my first child, been waiting for almost nine months (yep, not so long now). You hear stories about what it’s like to be a parent and have a baby and you studiously soak up all the theory about the subject, but until it actually happens to you, you don’t know. Life will change drastically, but I don’t know what that change is going to be like. I know it’s going to be tiring and frustrating and yet also “ultimately worth it”, but I have nothing to compare that with, so can’t really prepare myself for the experience. I can but wait, but I can say it’s the most interesting waiting experience I’ve ever had!

Aikido and Kabbalah III

Da’ath – aikido is something that is always transmitted, from master to sensei, from sensei to student, it is a lineage that carries on through its practitioners. It is the realisation of aikido in its ideal form to its practiced form, which is filtered and adapted by each practitioner. What I learn from my sensei will be limited to how and what my sensei learnt from his sensei and also how he teaches. In turn, as it is transmitted to me, I will be changed by the aikido I am learning, but also aikido will be changed in contact with me. And yet there is still a continuity of lineage.

Binah – the form of aikido is a martial art. Each technique has been derived from earlier forms – jujitsu, judo, amongst others –  that often hurt, damage or even kill an opponent, but these have been adapted to the philosophy of non-violence. We learn to use the bokken and jo (wooden training sword and stave), which were used by the samurai and peasant soldiers in war. The form and attitude of using these weapons complements our main work with the empty handed practice of aikido. It is at its core about self-defense, and even if it takes a long time to perfect, all that we learn should be effective in a combat situation.

Chochmah – the impulse of aikido is produced not by violence but by peace. The guiding philosophy encourages harmony and neutralising aggression, not only of the person attacking you but also your own aggression. It has been mentioned before, aikido is best done in a relaxed and calm attitude. Any tenseness or force used will work against you. An attitude of aggression is itself unbalanced, and if you attack first, even more so, that is why, in aikido, we recieve the attack and respond from a balanced and harmonious centre. That is how aggression can be neutralised (I have to admit though, there is a long, long process to get there!).

Keter – the source of aikido as a distinct martial art was Morihei Ueshiba or Osensei. It was he who, after years of studying various martials arts and an encounter with a pacifistic Shinto religion, began developing his own style that has many adherents around the world today. Aikido shows its Japanese roots, not only in the form of the martial art but also in much of the ritual and etiquette, including the use of some Japanese words. Perhaps overwhelming or just odd for many non-Japanese, but it’s all integral to its practise, and there is honour in remembering this.

The Flow of Saille

Willow is the tree associated with Saille, and as such its symbolism is very watery, since willows are often found growing by rivers and lakes. Their form also evokes a “flowing” sensation, with long, elegant leaves and flexible branches. This also evokes traditional (stereotypical?) ideas of femininity.

This ogham few also expresses for me the essense of aikido. My sensei often says that the best aikido is a woman’s aikido. In general, men are encouraged to be aggressive and competitive, and to some extent dispassionate with other people – martial arts like karate or jujitsu tend to come easier. Aikido is much more of a challenge for a “typical” man, though women have their own challenges in aikido, perhaps relating to the more martial aspect of it.

Aikido, a martial art based on peace and harmony, cultivates more “feminine” qualities of gentleness and compassion. Many times I’ve been pracitising a technique and even if technically it is correct, my sensei still corrects how I do it: “Too rigid.” – “You’re using too much force, it wouldn’t work if your opponent were stronger than you.” – “Adam, there’s too much tension and aggression. Relax, breathe.” Not corrections you’d recieve in most forms of karate.

In aikido we are taught to flow, not use force or strength, to work with dynamics and movement, to be “like water”. Aikido still remains a martial discipline – a certain confidence and directness is involved – but it always based on a principle of non-harm and fluidity.

Summer Silhouette

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Silhouette of dry grass in the late summer sun

This picture makes me feel warm and restful. It reminds me of the long shadows of an autumn evening. Many leaves are changing their colour, and though it is getting colder, on sunny days it still feels quite warm. It feels gentle and yet full of life and vigour.

It tells me to rest and enjoy the fading warmth. To collect my strength before moving on again, but I think also to maintain a certain poise and readiness for when the time comes to act again.

“Doing” is very much emphasised in Western culture, and resting and quiet observation are undervalued. But if we wish to “do” things well we must learn to rest well and observe carefully. I’ve always thought of myself as a patient and observant person, not given to haste.

Shadows provide a place for relaxation, shelter and a hiding place. There are plenty of species that need some shade to grow, like fungi. This autumn we’ve been looking for edible mushrooms, mostly woodland species that prefer shade and the shelter of trees; we’ve also been given logs for growing shitaki mushrooms, and they need some shade to grow, though not too much.In the summer I am acutely aware of how I need shade. In the middle of the day, when the sun’s shining bright, I will actively seek shade, instead of standing in direct sunlight.

Shadows protect all living beings and give them space and time for rest and recuperation, to give space to grow and find shelter from summer heat or predators. My “shadow self” has protected me, from others and from myself. If I do not understand my shadow self, or rather its contents, it makes sense that they may be “hidden” from me, it could be damaging to myself or others if I didn’t know how to handle those contents. It takes a work of introspection and understanding to properly handle the shadow. Sometimes the shadow also hides what is not yet ready to emerge. The womb protects the baby and the soil protects the seed until they are ready to emerge into the world. I feel I have a developed a lot of my potential. I also feel I have a lot more potential to develop and that bit by bit I am recuperating many things that I had hidden. At present, my training in aikido is showing me a whole world of untapped human potential that I never realised I had. The ability to be calm in stressful circumstances, my innate athleticism and also my ability to teach and help others advance in their own learning. I have a lot more confidence in my body about what it can and can’t do, and yet still these limits are being pushed further than before.

I can gradually and continually push my limits, revealing new abilities and qualities in me. This isn’t something that miraculously appears overnight, but is something that takes a lifetime of development. I feel  at peace with what I don’t know of myself; either I will eventually know, or if I will not know it is because I don’t need to or it is not the correct time to know. I continue doing what I am doing; there are many seeds that have been sown and they are gestating. Some are now emerging or will emerge, and I feel everything is unfolding as it should.

 

Gathering Sparks of Light (poem)

I’ve used to share my poetry on The Blackbird’s Perch,  but I think I shall put that blog into retiring, but keeping it for posterity, and any poetry that arises I shall share here in the new category of ‘poetry’. Here’s one from this weekend.

Gathering Sparks of Light
In the darkness
sparks of light
in need of liberation.
I cannot find them
by avoiding the dark.
I can but face and enter
their dark abode.
I gather them together
Into new constellations
Enriching the who of my being.

The Call of Toland

Three hundred years ago John Toland stood on Primrose Hill calling for a gathering of Druids a year and a day hence, to meet on the 22 September 1717 in The Apple Tree Tavern in London, on which day druids from all over the British Isles and also Brittany met together to formally take Druidry out of centuries of hiding. The same meeting from which The Druid Order and the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids draw their origins – or so the story goes.

Historically, there’s little to say this actually happened, but each detail is significant in the history of the Druid Revival – John Toland, Primrose Hill and 1717 are all significant to modern Druidry. The above event represents a synthesis of things that have gone into the DNA of modern druidry.

So here I give my own “Primrose Hill” call to druids all over the world, that a year and a day hence – 22nd Sept 2017, Autumn Equinox – we celebrate three hundred years of the revival of the ancient druid ways! (nothing official, just a recognition of the significance of this date).

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Weaving

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I went for a little walk around the forest, picking up things as I went. I even cut a few hazel sticks to use for the structure. I call the finished art Forest Weaving.

Forest Weaving feels like the forest in mobile form. I am in my house, the forest is outside, and yet the forest is also in here with me. The various components aren’t separate but comprise parts of the same being. It is the forest in the form of a web in the same way I am the universe in the form of a human.

In a way that each individual thing is a unique microcosm of the macrocosm, I can see the distinction between me and Forest Weaving, it is there and I am here, yet we are unique representations of the macrocosm, of the forest surrounding us, the Earth we exist on and the whole Universe.

There is a common identity shared throughout nature, and we all share in the same being. This doesn’t undermine or dissolve our differences, but enhances them. And our differences don’t separate us but make us unique expressions of the whole.

With this awareness I don’t feel so different or separated from others, I feel we all share a commonality that cannot be shaken off with losing Being. We are all participants in the Same Thing, not separate objects floating around, at times interacting, at times not.

I have an essential identity that I share with others. I feel  a sense of common participation with all things. I feel this is an essential part of who and what we are. Harmony is more essential to existence than disharmony. When we feel harmony deep down, we are in contact with out common  identity. It reminds me to pay attention to when I feel harmonious and when not.

 

 

 

Depth Politics – Roots of Conflict

Politics is all about conflict, and there are thousands of different conflicts present in politics (below I present a “small” selection). Every political system and ideology expresses some sort of conflict or another that has to be resolved in society, and we prioritise them and take sides.

Political theorists look at history, pinpointing the conflict/s that they feel define history, but usually at the expense of other conflicts. Usually their analyses look at the workings of the political and economic systems in an attempt to improve them or provide alternatives. They talk about how they work, how they should work and what would be best, yet very few reach into the psychological roots of conflict.

These conflicts aren’t just aspects of our society, the are present within us, emanating from us into society and our political systems. If we don’t resolve these issues within us at the root and in our most immediate and intimate relationships, there’s little hope for them to resolved in the world. Below are a list of conflicts, many of which have deep historical roots, and all of which are very much active today, but they all have a little space within us, and will continue to do so, whether we live in a republic or a monarchy, dictatorship or democracy.

It’s very easy to see these issues at work in society at large, but what about within us?
man vs woman
masculine vs feminine
adults vs children
human vs nature
cultural vs natural
technological vs ecological
sustainability vs consumerism
domestication vs wildness
organic vs artificial
urban vs rural
agriculture vs industry
producer vs consumer
owner vs worker
public vs private
rich vs poor
self-sufficiency vs trade
leisure vs work
solidarity vs bargaining
elitism vs equality
individual vs collective
foreign vs native
history vs progress
tradition vs innovation
stability vs change
cosmopolitan vs provincial
global vs local
centralism vs federalism
control vs democracy
security vs liberty
justice vs freedom
rights vs responsibility
economic vs social vs ecological values
needs vs wants
science vs religion
spiritual vs secular
collaboration vs competition
thoughts vs feelings
reflection vs reaction
strength vs sensitivity
beliefs vs experience
verbal vs non-verbal

To name just a few!