Greetings dear ones,
May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon you and warm your heart till it glows,
Like a great peat fire, so that the stranger may come
and warm himself at it, as well as the friend.
And may the light shine out of the eyes of you,
like a candle set in the windows of a house,
Bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.
(From a traditional Irish blessing.)
As I look back upon the past year and reflect on what I want to share with you at the dawn of 2014, there are two things that stand out for me. This year brought Sadananda and myself the extraordinarily grace-full experience of our Celtic journey through England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, culminating in our pilgrimage to the Sacred Isle of Iona in the Hebrides. The place where the great Saint Columcille or Columba made his home, Iona has been Scotland's most sacred spot for more than fifteen centuries and still possesses an extraordinary aura of peace and serenity.
This was also the year when I was not just a compassionate witness of world news, but also one who lived through devastating and overwhelming events heard around the world--the Colorado Flood Disaster, which inundated Boulder County, sweeping away entire mountain towns and damaging thousands of buildings, including Alandi Ashram. Recovery efforts are ongoing still, both countywide and at the ashram.
There is an underlying thread that links these experiences, so different in emotional tone. The Celtic way is one of harmony with the earth, the elements and the cycles and seasons of nature. In the sacred spaces of cliff and mountain, shore and turf--wild and rugged places lashed by wind and rain--the beauty of sunrise and sunset, dusk and starlight, heather and meadowsweet, the grating cry of the corncrake and the otherworldly moans of Manx shearwater are received with reverence and awe. Beauty suffuses the harshness of these spaces at the edge of the world, calling forth myth, song and story and awakening the heart to other dimensions of being. For the Celts, nature was not a force to be tamed and dominated but a sacred text to be read, learnt and lived.
And for us in Boulder the untamable wildness at the heart of nature made itself felt as the earth cleansed herself in a roar of waters. We the privileged, the comfortable, were humbled in the face of a force that could not be contained and that overturned our lives within minutes. At such times, we can only remember that we do not own the Earth, we are her guests, living upon her at her pleasure.
May the blessing of the rain be on you - the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up,
And shed their sweetness on the air.
And may the blessing of the great rains be on you,
that they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool, and sometimes a star.
While we struggled to reclaim our lives after the disaster in Boulder County, wild weather events continued around the world at an unprecedented rate. The worst storm ever to make landfall hit poor and vulnerable people in the Philippines. Tens of thousands were evacuated in Britain as one Atlantic storm after another came roaring in. As I write today from Wales, a series of severe storms throughout the past two weeks have brought flooding, fallen trees, power failures and tidal surges. Meanwhile Minnesota is anticipating the coldest temperatures it has ever known. The climate is destabilizing faster than we could have imagined. Five hundred year events are the new normal. Each storm brings an invitation to radical change in a way of life that is rendering our beautiful home a hostile place for humans and animals alike.
As the year drew to a close, I became once more a participant in tragic news. The school shooting that occurred on 13th December took place not just in Colorado, but at Arapahoe High School, the school our nephew attends and from which our niece recently graduated. Like the floods, the shooting was a reminder that disturbing events don't just happen to other people. We are all participants in a culture disconnected from nature and from our own hearts. Although stricter gun controls would undoubtedly help make events of this kind less likely, such legislation does not address the deepest cause or offer the most effective remedy.
A year after the terrible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, local Rabbi Shaul Praver spoke eloquently of the one effective remedy for violence and the wounds of violence--loving-kindness. "We have found the cure for the social disease of violence, hatred and bigotry, and that cure is good old-fashioned loving kindness. When everyone practices that it does change the atmosphere of a room, of a town, of a community, of a state and a country. And so, it is not of only local value, but it is of universal value."
I invite all of us to dedicate 2014 to loving-kindness--the wish that all beings be happy. For a few minutes each day, let us breathe in 'May I be happy,' drawing warmth into every cell. And let us breathe out 'May all beings be happy' radiating warmth to all humans, animals and plants.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you - the great round earth;
May you ever have a kindly greeting for people you pass
as you are going along the roads.
And now may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.
Wishing you a joyous New Year and peace and prosperity during 2014!
With my love and blessings always