Category Archives: connection

Following the path of the Holy Grail

Nestled in a rock face near the Spanish city of Jaca is the ancient monastery of San Juan de la Pena. It dates back to the ninth century and by the 11th century became the spiritual and intellectual centre of the Kingdom of Aragon. According to legend the Holy Grail was kept here until the 14th century.

There is no final proof but It was believed to be the chalice used by Jesus during the Last Supper and the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea collected the Blood of Jesus on the Cross. Today the original is kept in the Cathedral of Valencia with a copy displayed on a stone altar in the old monastery.


Whether true or not, the monastery San Juan de la Pena is a mysterious and unique place. While on our recent walk on the Camino, I took a day to explore the area on the mountain from which there are spectacular views of the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.


  
The Monasterio Nuevo, or new monastery, further up the mountain is a much bigger complex. Its exterior has been rebuilt with a modern museum interior giving much insight on how the monks lived according to the Benedictine Order

The monastery had enormous influence not only in the ancient Kingdom of Aragon but throughout Europe of the early Middle Ages. The monks lived disciplined lives, following a daily routine of contemplation, work and study. Silence was highly cherished. The monks took a vow of silence and were only allowed to speak if it was absolutely necessary or when it was a good thought or blessing. It was obviously an atmosphere that was conducive to highly-focused study and inner spiritual work.

The exhibition in the new monastery illustrates a colorful history of rise and decay. The influence and success of this monastery in the early Middle Ages can be attributed to several factors that are good lessons for today’s corporates:

  • The monks were absolutely focused, disciplined and dedicated to their task
  • At the same time they did not exclude themselves from the outside world, honing the art of networking and relationship-building with the rulers and decision-makers of the time.
  • A charismatic abbot, or leader, was crucial in maintaining cohesion, discipline and respect
  • Basic material needs were catered for by the Kingdom with at times generous grants and donations

Its a mute point on whether the decay started in the year 1399 when the Aragonese King Martino V took the Holy Grail  to his palace in Zaragoza and when the monks asked for it back he tricked them with a replica. There were several fires that destroyed much of the monastery complex in the 17th century. Decay came in line with infighting and power struggles. Grants and privileges from the king were reduced and at times completely stopped. Loss of focus and purpose came in line with vows being broken and poor leadership.

An organisation is only as successful as long as its members are motivated to abide by the internal codes and ethics which always reflects on how it is perceived by those outside. There will always be circumstances that cannot be controlled, such as political change or upheavel. But it is how adaptable and flexible that organisation is to unpredictable changes, that will ultimately determine its survival.

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Filed under connection, energy, healing nature, life vision, meditation, monasteries, monks, organisational structure, powerbodymind, psychology, spirituality

Reconnecting to the web of life

Humanity’s disconnect to the web of life, the lack of respect and awareness for the many parts of the bigger whole, has got us into a pretty dire predicament.

Some theorists would argue that man is a predator by nature and that it is all about the survival of the fittest, falsely quoting Darwin who was in reality very much aware of the intricate inter-connection of all living things.

Any species which fails to find its niche in the web of life becomes extinct because the earth or “creation intelligence” always finds a means of discarding that which becomes a threat to everything else. It is something you become acutely aware of by spending alone time in nature or in the wilds.

I’ve had some of my deepest spiritual experiences while hiking alone in the Pyrenees mountains, the Spanish Camino and the African bush where simply by observation you begin to realize that every plant, beetle, bird, antelope or predator is there for a reason and plays its small part in sustaining life as a whole.

Lichtblick

My theory is that humanity’s disconnect from the web of life is partly the result of alienation from nature and the “materialist-theoretical” approach to religion rather than intuitive spirituality that our forebears practised in the mystic traditions.

As hundreds of millions of people continue to move to urban areas there is a real danger that the alienation from our true destiny will continue. A growing number of people in the wealthier countries are living alone in apartments and getting lonelier and lonelier as they grow older and their already fragile support network of friends starts falling away.

In my previous blog I mentioned how much we are influenced and shaped by the people around us. Our health, our happiness and our lifespan depend on how well we are accepted, integrated and valued in that community we cherish. Loneliness is perceived as physical pain and is responsible for many psychological disorders. Read this interesting report on what people in Sardinia seem to be getting just right and why many of them stay healthy well over the age of a 100.

The biggest challenge faced by humanity is to rediscover that bond to the web of life and to make the switch from predator to custodian, protector and nurturer. Here are just some ways of reconnecting:

  • Sitting meditation with emphasis on the natural breathing sequence of inhaling and exhaling
  • Walking “things off” and reconnecting with your natural rhythm on a longer hike, preferably for several days. Its a wonderful way of detoxing your mind and body.
  • Any of the body arts such as yoga, taiji and qi gong have been practised and perfected over many generations as a way of reconnecting with your mind and body.
  • When outdoors in nature find just one sound to concentrate your mind on. It could be a bird chirping or the wind blowing through the trees. You will feel very relaxed after only a few minutes.

I had an amazing experience on one of my walks when I connected to a blackbird singing in a tree nearby. It responded by following me for several kilometres, hopping from tree to tree and on the track ahead. It was an amazing experience of connection.

Info:

Why face-to-face contact matters in a digital world

Yield and Overcome – How change can positively impact our lives

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Filed under body arts, connection, healing nature, meditation