Tag Archives: Christmas

Winter Nights – a Christmas meditation

The beautiful solstice poem by Susan Cooper which I shared in my last post, and which proved a very popular read,  has got me reflecting on winter, this Christmas Eve. It is wet and windy in Glasgow tonight, neither very cold nor very seasonal. But the daffs and snowdrops’ green shoots are peeping though. They know that spring isn’t far away!

But in the meantime, we need winter. We need the dark. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time.

We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature.

On the Scottish island where I grew up, however, nature was omnipresent. One snowy winter’s dusk, I failed to return home from primary school. A snowstorm was blowing up with a fierce gale. Worried, my mother sent out a search party who found me in a state of some distress, almost white with snow, pinned against a fence. A slight child, I had been blown and held there by the wind.

Where I grew up, we didn’t need to read books to understand the fierce destructive power of nature as well as its unearthly beauty. Followers of this blog will know from its new header, how much I love the Northern Lights which I used to see each winter, magic dancers in the night sky  above the island of my birth.

From those childhood experiences on, I have walked the well trodden path underlying all faiths which seeks ways of affirming connection with that vast Power which runs nature, the Universe and everything, reconciling dark and light, going way beyond time.

Whilst reflecting on the profoundly mysterious and paradoxical relationship between light and dark, with which we humans have always wrestled in one form or another, the phrase ‘dazzling darkness’ came to mind. It persisted for days, until eventually I located the source.

It occurs in a fascinating article, which I had first read in 2002, titled “A RELUCTANT MYSTIC: God-Consciousness not Guru Worship” by John Wren-Lewis. ( from Self & Society Vol 29 Number 6 Feb-March 2002 (pp 22-24)

The author describes how, at the age of nearly sixty, retired and with a distinguished career as a scientist behind him,  he had spiritual consciousness “thrust upon me….without working for it, desiring it, or even believing in it.”

It was 1983. Wren-Lewis was in Thailand, in a hospital bed, hovering between life and death, having eaten a poisoned sweet given to him by a would-be thief. What happened next, a ‘near death experience’(NDE), he describes as follows:

“I simply entered – or rather, was – a timeless, spaceless void which in some indescribable way was total aliveness – an almost palpable blackness that was yet somehow radiant. Trying to find words for it afterwards, I recalled the mysterious line of Henry Vaughan’s poem The Night:  ‘There is in God, some say, a deep and dazzling darkness’….”

His return to life, as the medical staff gradually won their battle to save him, was not in any way accompanied by the typical NDE’s classic sense of regret or loss at having to go back to the world of the everyday. It was, in fact, “nothing like a return….more like an act of creation whereby the timeless, spaceless Dark budded out into manifestation”. Furthermore, the experience was “indescribably wonderful.”

In Wren-Lewis’ own words “I now know exactly why the Book of Genesis says that God looked upon all that He had made – not just beautiful sunsets, but dreary hospital rooms and traumatised sixty-year old bodies – and saw that it was very good.”

Moreover, this heightened awareness did not leave him. A permanent shift, without any effort at all, into what he calls “God-consciousness” caused him to do further reading and research beyond accounts of NDEs into the “once-despised world of mystical literature and spiritual movements”.

But he rejects the notion held by experts in many religious traditions that the path to God-consciousness, or Enlightenment, or Nirvana requires years or even lifetimes of intensive spiritual effort. After all, he’d been handed “the pearl of great price on a plate” without ever seeking it, and found God-consciousness to be quintessentially ordinary and obvious – a feature emphasised by many mystics.

I was so intrigued by Wren-Lewis’ startling account  that I re-read the great Victorian psychologist William James’ classic book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” for the first time in nearly thirty years. This confirmed what I had already known but forgotten: a great many people who have profound religious or mystical experiences have them in nature.

I felt grateful then for my powerful and threatening experience that winter’s night in early childhood. The awesome power of nature, had circumstances been a little different, could have taken my life from me then before it had even begun. And for those brilliant encounters with the Northern Lights, so long ago but still clearly remembered. They affirmed my need for ‘God consciousness’ – long before I could ever articulate it coherently for myself.

We need awe: it points our vision towards the sacred. So, readers, embrace the darkness if you can, this winter’s Christmas Eve – you never can tell what wonders may reveal themselves ….

River Kelvin Dec 2010

River Kelvin Dec 2010

FESTIVE GREETINGS EVERYONE! THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUING SUPPORT VIA VISITS, COMMENTS AND EMAILS – AND MAY 2014 BE A FULFILLING YEAR.

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950 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Not quite what Rudolph had in mind…..great excitement in North Kelvin, Glasgow, UK!

Friday  14th December 2012. It was a dark and rainy night….despite which around one thousand children, parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents all came out to see North Kelvin’s first Reindeer Parade, escorting Santa Claus through The Children’s Wood:

Santa Sets Off!

Santa Sets Off!

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

Festive excitement and pleasure – Santa, Reindeer, spirited recitation from the Stick Man, juggling, delicious cakes, mulled wine (hot blackcurrant for the children) – combined with serious purpose. We were also there to protest, make our banners seen:

Save Our Children's Wood!

Save Our Children’s Wood!

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

Think globally, act locally urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Long before governments began enforcing environmental laws, individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. These efforts are referred to as grassroots efforts. They occur on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers…..” ( Wikipedia )

May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council‘s plan for the space goes ahead.

To give you a wonderful ‘flavour’ of what this land means to our community, DO watch this brilliant short film Dear Green Place made recently by film maker James Urquhart.

Time is now getting short. The community’s formal objections have to be lodged by 4th January 2013. To find out more about this and find out how YOU can help, click HERE.

AND – to sign our on-line petition, go HERE. Thanks!!

Meadow in the City

The Children’s Wood

(photo: Anne Whitaker)

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NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, Facebook friends, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this post around your networks. Thanks!

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300 words copyright /Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Let’s talk some sense about Mayan Calendar Prophecies….

This post from last Spring 2012 seems much more relevant  NOW as Winter Solstice 2012 hysteria begins to build….what do you folks out there think of it all?

“…. Have you heard about millenarianism? It is at the root of the current hype about what dire events are supposed to happen at this year’s Winter Solstice, according to the latest versions of Mayan calendar prophecy.

To quote respected historian and astrologer, Dr. Nicholas Campion, from “The Great Year (1994, 331):

“….Millenarianism has been a political force in Europe for almost two thousand years….Its flames have been fanned by social and economic dislocation, but its militant power has always derived from an ideology that preaches that destruction is necessary before the world can be reborn….”

There have been bouts of millenarianism for a very long time, despite which we are still here. The most recent one occurred at the Millenium –

Anyone remember The Millenium Bug which was going to reap dire havoc worldwide? I seem to recall a Hong Kong taxi driver’s meter going a bit wonky after midnight, but that was about it.

And here we are, as the world goes through one of its periodic bouts of more turmoil than usual, at it again.

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

crystalinks.com

It is only March and I am already getting rather fed up of being asked whether I think the world is going to come to an end at the Winter Solstice. My answer is usually that I doubt that very much. But then no-one knows anything for sure, not even Richard Dawkins……

This morning, having a trawl around the Net, I found this very sensible, very erudite, very detailed and very LONG article by astrological historian and Mesoamerican Astrology researcher Bruce Schofield, PhD.

His trenchant comment is that 21st December 2012 ” is most likely going to just be another Friday full of last minute Christmas shopping….”

To read the full article and become fully informed for your future discussions with your local Prophets of Doom, click below:

“Fear-Driven Doomsday Rant Has Badly Misinformed the Public”.

(many thanks to Mary Plumb and this week’s Mountain Astrology Blog for including a link to this article) ….” ( March 13 2012 ) 

UPDATE 13.12.2012:  Mary Plumb has her own thoughtful reflections on the Mayan Calendar issue in this week’s Mountain Astrology Blog

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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A Festive Kiss – with a twist!

I captured this arresting, quirky Festive image in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, whilst strolling along by the River 
Kelvin through the tunnel under Queen Margaret Drive bridge. Snapped with my  mobile phone camera which takes great pictures, it  affirmed the famous (at times infamous!) glaswegian sense of humour. Think Billy Connolly….Who else but a Weegie would have taken the time and trouble to suspend a large clump of mistletoe just above the heads of potential passing kissers?

Festive Kiss with a Twist!

Festive Kiss with a Twist!

photo: Anne Whitaker  14.12.2011

It cheered me up immensely in the midst of a difficult week. I offer it out in the hope that in the midst of this highly-charged time, when both the joys and the griefs of life come into sharp focus, it will give someone out there the laugh they need just at this moment.

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

River Kelvin Dec 2010

River Kelvin Dec 2010

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page