Originally published in Touchstone magazine, March 2011
These are dark times that we are living in both in a literal sense due to the winter time (in the northern hemisphere) and also in a metaphorical sense due to the unprecedented changes that are occurring in human society at the moment. The cycles of the year are predictable, winters may be harder than expected, summers may be a wash-out or a harsh drought but they are usually variable within parameters than we can prepare for and adapt to. The cycles of nature can inspire awe, respect and sometimes fear in people, however we can generally be confident that with common sense, preparation and pulling together that almost all of us will get through the hard times like countless generations before us got through bad years.
In some sense the hardships that nature imposes on us are a lesson to be learned - a reminder of our reliance on the world and our own fragility. As humans we are prone to suffer from hubris and often forget that we can very easily be humbled by nature, a gentle reminder of that fact from time to time does us no harm. This reminder hopefully redirects our attention towards gratitude and the spiritual aspect of life that underpins our physical existence.
Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said of the problems of human society, the dark times of our own making. Recent years have proven challenging – wars continue at the behest of post-imperial powers, environmental degradation has not decreased sufficiently, replacement of fossil fuels has not been instigated in earnest and political and financial crisis appears to be deepening around the world.
It’s all rather gloomy, however this is not the time to become shrouded in darkness and gloom. In fact, I feel that now it is vitally important to see the problems that face us for what they are but to remain positive, hopeful and not allow them to overwhelm us; it is one of the great strengths of humanity that we can solve problems and work together to overcome adversity. To do this does require a certain frame of mind, a sense of hope, positivity and the will to do what one can to effect change for the better.
Personally I would say I am a hopeful, realist – I am aware of the negative and the obstacles ahead but I am always hopeful that they can be overcome or navigated around through positive thoughts and actions. This is where my spiritual life plays a vital role – the maintenance of the light body, the connection with awen (imbas in Irish) is central to not just magic but to the magic of life – the ability to stay positive and the ability to focus that positivity into concrete actions that tip the scales in your favour.
I would hope that, as Druids, we all have an understanding of this basic premise – that happiness, success, strength and action manifests from the inside outwards into the worlds around us. So knowing this, I believe that we have an added advantage over those with little or no apparent spiritual life – we learn and use techniques of storing up and working with nwyfre (neart in Irish) for our own benefit and also for the benefit of the world around us. Of course, people of other spiritual paths also know and work with this energy, but I am not going to discuss that here. What is most important is not the method by which awen/imbas is reached or nwyfre/neart channeled. What is most important is the fact that we have the ability to do this – which begs the question how do we use it?
At this time I see people all around me (especially here in Ireland) who are depressed, defeated and lacking in hope. For some of them they no longer see that the sun still shines every day, even if it is sometimes hidden by clouds. The light of their inner suns has grown dim due to misfortunes, too much negativity etc. and once this has happened the world around them grows dimmer to them, sometimes becoming a vicious circle.
In my daily life and my travels I am increasingly aware of negativity and fear taking hold of so many people – leading to depression, self-defeating actions and in the worst of cases suicide. Although this can have a temporary negative affect on myself, my inner centeredness that I have gained from Druidry enables me to regain my perspective and hopefully also help others. In these bleak times it is essential that we not only sustain our own vitality, if we have the power to we should reach out to others who are suffering. THOSE THAT CAN MUST DO: becoming a beacon of light and positivity for those around us can give the depressed and put-upon an important gift – hope.
Without hope we are all lost, belief that things can and will improve is what sustains so much of human existence, when we give up our fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, if you know people who are suffering please reach out to them in whatever way you can – sometimes a smile, a phone call, sitting down for a chat or even helping with the laundry might make a huge difference. Often quite simple and small actions can have a great impact on someone’s levels of nwyfre and their subsequent level of positivity.
Obviously we cannot just go out and fix everything in a second, but what we can do is by subtle and thoughtful intervention in the web around us raise peoples’ energy, quite often without them realizing what we are doing. Everything is connected and small interactions can in time create a great sea change. I believe that our work can be of vital importance in getting our friends, families and communities through the darkness... there is always light at the end of the tunnel but sometimes people need to be shown it.
By using that inner strength and inner light, in a non-patronising and appropriate way we not only empower others to feel more positive about their lives, we become more empowered ourselves - the flow of nwyfre/neart/chi/prana is unstoppable and inexhaustible if we are able to keep tapping into it. So be grateful for that great blessing and use it whenever you can to make the world a better place – I believe that that is what we are all here to do!