Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Zen Druidry by Joanna van der Hoeven - a review

Zen Druidry – Joanna van der Hoeven
Moon Books ~ 978 1 78099 390 4

Back in the distant past when I was taking early steps along the Druid path, I was also studying Eastern ways – Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Brahmanism, and the like. I stayed on the Druid path and became Druid because I better understood the imagery and symbolism which allowed me to better shape my own metaphysical stance. But I have never ceased to be a student of those other ways.

It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to pick up this little book which outlines both Zen (a school of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in China during the 6th century) and Druidry (the modern name given to a spiritual path developed from that overseen by ancestral Druids) and shows how they can work together. It is a little book, so you might not expect too much of it. You will, however, be pleasantly surprised. It manages to pack a lot into its 74 pages, largely because it is written without fuss or pretensions – indeed, very much in keeping with the subject matter. That alone speaks to me about how valuable this little book is. The author not only knows her subject inside out, she clearly practises what she preaches.

I found the application of the Buddhist Eightfold Path to the eight annual festivals of the Druid way to be of particular interest. Meditation is important to Zen and I have long felt that following the ritual year is a form of extended meditation. And here we have an extra layer to contemplate, integrate, and practice as the seasons revolve.

The greatest connection between Zen and Druidry (for me, at least) lies in mindfulness. It is, perhaps, an attribute common to all spiritual paths, but it is of especial interest to those who recognise their rootedness in this world, who recognise that the worlds of spirit and matter are as integrated as everything else. From the extempore prayers said by Celtic peoples over everyday tasks and events, words that spring from an awareness of working in the now, to the formal ritual built up around significant events in the life of the planet, the individual, the family, and the community, a Druid needs to be mindful. But it goes well beyond word into every aspect of our being – our thoughts, our dreams, and our every action. All this is simply and powerfully highlighted by this book.

So what we have is an engaging and thoughtful introduction to a pertinent fusion of ideas. A book which beautifully illustrates that when you strip away the fluff, the images, and the symbols there is very little that is different between the paths. And whilst it is something you could read at a single sitting (as I did), it is worth revisiting on a regular basis so as to be able to return to that clear and simple vision on which it is based. A book I would willingly recommend to anyone.

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