Remembering Our Hidden Wisdom

What are you doing with your time right now? This blog is a wake-up call – use this time wisely and you can emerge from your isolation as a new person!

Henry Thoreau
Henry Thoreau (1817–1868)

Henry Thoreau, the American philosopher who lived in a hut in the woods in Walden, New England, told an inspiring story, based on a true event he had heard about. A family was gathered for a celebration and everyone was seated around at a very old table, made of apple tree wood, which “had stood in a farmer’s kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts”. Possibly, one of their ancestors had actually built it, or certainly purchased it from a local craftsman. They had been keeping an urn of hot water on the table, which warmed the wood in a way that most likely had never happened since the tree had been felled, and the wood seasoned, before the table had been built.

From a crack in the wood emerged a bug, “from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still.” The bug was hatched by the heat emanating from the urn and may have gnawed “for several weeks” in order to free itself. (IMAGE 2 – haven’t found one…what bug can we use?)

The bug has been in wood for many decades and then emerges to a new, brighter life, and Thoreau hopes humanity can leave its life of dependence on things and emerge into a greater world of transcendental freedom. Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages….may unexpectedly come forth…to enjoy a perfect summer life at last!

Thoreau was a member of the Transcendentalist movement. Transcendentalist adherents were early environmentalists. They believe in the inherent goodness of people and nature, that society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual. People are at their best when truly self-reliant and independent. Thoreau’s writings have influenced the Human Potential and New Age movements. By telling us this story he wanted to confirm that the potential of our ‘winged life’ may be dormant, but we can be woken up – like a princess in the castle surrounded by brambles. IMAGE 3 Sometimes it takes warmth from outside to stimulate this process. Possibly someone else will have to arrive in our lives. Or, we will stir in our slumber and catch a glimpse of new possibilities as if in a dream. Then we will remind ourselves to engage with an ancient promise we made to ourselves, before we were born into our present incarnation.

So many old spiritual stories describe how we forget why we decided to descend into material world. In a Jewish version, the Angel Layla watches over the newly forming baby and touches it gently above the top lip, whispering ‘ssssh’…this is why we have a little indentation just there! IMAGE 4 The angel has made sure we forget most of what we knew in heaven, but wants us to retain enough deep memory, tucked away in the recesses of our consciousness, so we will always be seeking our Divine nature. The poet Wordsworth echoes this story:


Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star

Hath had elsewhere its setting

And cometh from afar,

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!


In this poem, Intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood, Wordsworth describes how, as a small child, he experienced the world being apparelled in celestial light. Through his innocent eyes he could actually see the Divine Radiance shining in the world. IMAGE 5 But he is saddened by the fact that he no longer sees the Divine presence…a glory has passed from the earth. This poem is a truly significant testimony for our understanding of Shefa…that is what the child sees in the natural world. Children, before they are educated to analyse and divide the world, which begins to happen almost as soon as they learn language, are in a state of bliss. Well, most of the time – except when they are hungry, or when the diaper is soggy!

Jesus told his disciples that they would need to become ‘as little children’, before they could enter the kingdom. And the ‘meek’ would inherit the earth. The state of innocence that allows us all to see Divine Radiance all around, allows us to appreciate the flow of Shefa in all aspects of nature, including in our own physical body. This visionary capacity may seem far from our everyday, focussed, efficient state of mind. We tell ourselves we must be ‘realistic’. But deep inside each one of us is a winged self, wanting – waiting – to be released. This release leads to an interior knowledge, certainty and confidence – it has nothing to do with social expectations, what you should do, or not do. It is your life task to encourage your little bug to wake up and start flying. Regular meditation takes you to a state of innocence and bliss. Think of this heavenly state as your Divine playground. Regular meditation playfulness, using the Shefa characters, will bring blessings, healing and abundance as an easy flow. No effort required.

During these strange times, when so many people have to make huge adjustments to their life-styles, here is something to consider…perhaps the pandemic virus is like the tea-urn on the table. Maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of heating up the collective human environment in order to stimulate our forgotten wisdom. Under these circumstances we have an opportunity to draw on our natural resources of compassion and our capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances. But, much more than that, we are being given an opportunity to re-discover the secrets hidden in our seed. IMAGE 6 We get the ‘unprecedented’ chance to wake up to our real, Divine potential.

How To Go With The Flow

Unprecedented times…

How many times have you heard the word ‘unprecedented’ recently? Personally, I’ve lost count. Some politicians have been using the word frequently, even within the same speech. I would say we are collectively overwhelmed by a tsunami of anxiety and fear, except ‘tsunami’ is also being used rather a lot as well.

The pulse of life

There is an old story about a Chinese sage who fell into a tumultuous, rushing river. His disciples were in a state of shock. Their wise master had left them to fend for themselves. Some time later, while they were still grieving, the sage arrived back in the village, looking happy and healthy. The disciples were astounded. Their teacher was alive and back in action. They asked, “How did this come about? You were swept away by the raging water, we truly believed you would be lost to us forever.” The sage answered them, smiling. “When you fall into the river, you go with the flow. You allow yourself to go up with up-flow. Then go down with the down-flow. With such surrender, the river’s power will not harm you.”

The Hebrew word shefa means ‘everflow’, and it is also often called or, meaning ‘light’. But this is not static light, fixed like the glow from a light bulb. It is a living light energy that flows through Creation, pulsing, almost like electricity. Sometimes pushy or forceful, dynamic and yang; sometimes soft or gentle, receptive and yin. Its rhythmical flow can be likened to a stream, or a river, that can fill every corner of life. We often identify those two contrasting energetic qualities as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. The pulse of shefa is the ‘rhythm of life’, moving between creative and active, then back to receptive and passive.

Tools we use to see the flow

The classic Chinese oracle, I Ching, is a powerful divinatory tool that uses traditional stories to describe the movement of time. The varying qualities of time are delineated by a series of sixty-four hexagrams (figures made up of six lines each) that describe the wide variety of qualities of the time, when you ask a question. Here are all sixty-four:

In the same way, the ancient tradition of horary astrology also identifies the quality of the time, using the mythological language of the planetary gods and the signs of the zodiac. Using divination – consulting the oracle – isn’t so much about accurately predicting what will happen, but indicating what the ‘weather’ – the overall state of the energetic flow – will be like. Then, like a sailor consulting tide tables, you can make wiser choices when faced with significant decisions.The Chinese sage identified the up-flow and the down-flow, the yang and the yin of the river, then he surrendered to it. He didn’t resist or wrestle with it, but allowed the river’s energy to deliver him at the end of his roller-coaster ride, still happy and laughing.

Flow through the Tree of Life

In Jewish kabbalah – the wisdom received by generations of mystics who certainly did want to wrestle with the flow – we find a dynamic map called the Tree of Life. Here we find a description of the way the living light – shefa – flows through channels and pathways that could be seen to resemble a plumbing system. The mystics tell us that all living processes are underpinned by the same structure, which allows the flow to move easily and harmoniously in Creation. This includes our physical body. Here is the basic map:

Think of the circles as reservoirs, or tanks in a water system – in Hebrew they are called sefira (plural). The flow comes from an invisible, limitless Source outside, above and beyond the top sefirot (singular). In Jewish mystical literature the sefira are also described as ‘gates of light’. Each gate has an Archangelic guardian. (If you want to learn more about the Archangels of the Tree of Life, check out my book, Working with Archangels). The flow moves from one pillar to the next, crossing the central pillar at certain points. If the flow is harmonious, with no resistance, then all will be comfortable and well. It is only when blockages occur in the ‘plumbing’ that tensions, anxieties, or stresses arise, leading to ill-health, individual and collective panic and, quite often to war. When we trust this flow is benevolent, seeking our overall good, then we can allow it to move freely and easily, knowing that…

all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

Julian of Norwich (late 1342 until after 1416).

Each sefirot is named as one of the Divine qualities. Sometimes they are called the ‘faces of God’, or ‘the hands of God’. None of the qualities is set against us. Even ‘the severity of God’ is a necessary quality for our life-learning and spiritual growth. The sefira are also described as blossoms or jewels on the Tree, which is full of radiant light. The living light comes from a single source, which comes into your life fragmented, like light through a prism:

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-colour’d glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,

— Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Light and shadow

The Romantic poet Shelley wrote these words after the death of another poet, John Keats, who was only twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. Shelley himself died in a drowning accident, just before his thirtieth birthday. In the Ode on the death of John Keats, Shelley describes how we live in a shadowy world but, when we die, we will see beyond the dream-like shadowy perceptions and find ourselves back in ‘Heaven’s light’.

The ‘shadows’ are significant for us while we are incarnated. The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato likened our everyday lives to those of prisoners, chained in a cave, who could only see shadows on a wall in front of them. These shadows were cast by a fire behind them, a fire they couldn’t see because their chains held them in such a position that they could not turn their heads. In our kabbalistic Tree of Life map, the light moves through structures in order to create the dance of life, which necessarily casts shadows. They are not ‘evil’ or ‘negative’ in any way. When we ‘go with the flow’ we understand that ‘up’ is not always the best way forward, and that ‘down’ is not always ‘bad’.

Introvert and extrovert

Being isolated was a choice made by mystics like Julian of Norwich. She had lost her family in a time of plague, but she kept her faith. She understood that a personal, life-time retreat would give her the opportunity to commune with God and gain more spiritual insights. (Although so many pictures show her with a cat, so I’m sure she did have someone else to talk to as well!)

The artist Michaelangelo was an extreme introvert. Likely he would have been classed as autistic in today’s world. People who knew him complained about his anti-social behavior, to which he replied: “Unless I have time alone, I cannot hear what God is telling me.”

Take time to listen to your inner voice. There is so much inner wisdom we miss out on when we engage in a constant round of socialising. Don’t even think, “How can I fill my time with more Netflix movies, or catch up with books I’ve been meaning to read?” Use at least some of your time to dive deep and converse with your personal guide, daimon, angel – whatever word you like to use. They are waiting for you and will help you go with the flow.

What is Creative Meditation?

People usually practice meditation simply for keeping calm in the chaos of everyday life. But Creative Meditation is a tool for unlocking your potential.

People usually practice meditation simply for keeping calm in the chaos of everyday life. But Creative Meditation is a tool for unlocking your potential.

Meditation systems usually promise that taking regular quiet time will help you get through your busy day. You will deal with rush hours, demands of family, and bickering in the office, in a state of Buddha-like calm.

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

But I want to suggest something much more creative. Ancient wisdom tells us that yogis and mystics practiced meditation, not because they wanted to escape the busy world – they were on a mission to change their world. Let me introduce you to some different options in the shopping mall of spiritual practices.

Visualisations and guided journeys

Many personal development teachers offer students recordings of guided journeys, carefully designed to lead you into an inner experience. You will take time out in a peaceful place – by a lake, in a wooded glade, in a temple…

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

This interior world will be created by your imagination, according to the suggestions of the teacher. But you can take such journeys on your own, without any guidance. You can explore your personal imaginal worlds whenever you wish. These inner quests can be truly life enhancing, putting you in touch with your inner sanctuary and even allowing you to converse with guides or angels. Over the years, I have recorded many journeys for my students and I know how inspiring these inner journeys can be. Some people come back with wisdom and make real transformations in their daily lives. Four stars out of five for a really helpful practice… keep up the good work!


Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the now, while still going around your daily business. This practice was popularised by a Buddhist monk and is based on the Buddha’s teaching. He suggested we all needed to find an island of stillness within the busy world.

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

Practitioners train themselves to observe and be present to their activities. If you are eating an apple… notice every juicy bite, notice the crunch, notice the taste. This is a really brilliant practice, because it also makes you aware of how you are feeling inside, and how your thoughts arise, sometimes provoking difficult emotions. Again, I give mindfulness four stars!


The word ‘meditation’ is used as a catchall description for many practices with a variety of approaches. Some people describe mindfulness as meditation. The goal of meditation is to briefly transcend your thoughts and come back into everyday thinking refreshed. You can focus on something external, such as a candle, and that process can shift your attention from ‘monkey-mind’ chatter.

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

Or, you could repeat prayers, using beads or a rosary…

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

Repetitive chanting aloud is another tried and tested method remedy for a busy mind.

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method
Om in Sanskrit

Transcendental meditation gives students a mantra to repeat – but inwardly, not outwardly. A mantra is a sacred word, chosen from Sanskrit scriptures. Sanskrit is regarded as a divine language and is based on the primordial sounds of the universe. Om is the most famous Sanskrit mantra. Hebrew is also a divine language, again based on primordial sounds. I teach my students to use a zera, a seed word from Hebrew. Many forms of meditation will qualify for the four star reward! So what can I suggest that gets five stars?

Creative Meditation

What we need to take our practice to a new level is a method that not only takes us to the peaceful island (escaping for recuperation), but also gives us the tools to build a boat.

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

What I mean by this is that we need to explore how to redesign the reality we return to, after our meditation session has finished. As an individual human you contain your own personal unique, immense potential. When you touch base with your beingness, you can harness that potential. You can take authority over your own life. You don’t need to lead a life that is stressful, in which you can only cope by escaping regularly, or being mindful, in order to alleviate your ‘suffering’.

While on the subject of ‘suffering’ – which was what the Buddha claimed we are condemned to – I disagree. I was definitely not satisfied with that suggestion, and that was why I drifted away from being a member of the Buddhist society, after joining aged fourteen.  We human beings are creative, intelligent creatures, so we don’t have to suffer! It’s just a question of realigning the way we use our intelligence.

How do we do this?

Let’s get back to our process. The first thing is to get to the island. A technique that allows you easily, naturally and effortlessly to drop into the deepest realm of your own consciousness is essential. Rather than thinking of an island, think of this as diving deep into your ocean of consciousness and taking time to sit quietly on the ocean floor, beyond everyday concerns and aware only of your own beingness.

When you find this place you will become aware that your individual being is at one with a vast presence, a limitless field of energy. The experience of this will be truly blissful. Why wouldn’t you want to stay there, in this boundless zone of beauty, stillness and tranquillity?

The answer is: you are a creator! When you are there in the stillness, you will know, deep in your being, that you can create what you choose. You are at one with all that is. In that state of innocence you are like a child. You have entered heaven. You are passive, receptive to the wisdom, love and power that will arise easily and gracefully within you. But, like a child, you are inquisitive, curious and demanding. What a playground this is! What can you do now?

You can shift from the receptive to the creative mode. You can build new worlds. You can re-vision your life. You can recall your original choices that you made when you chose to incarnate into this present life. To live a unique destiny.

So first, you must learn how to dive into this field of all possibilities. This is where, as a creative, you get your blank canvas.

Creative Meditation | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

You take your inner charcoal and sketch in your vision. You will discover how to craft your chosen life at a subtle, vibrational level. Then your personal reality will start conforming to your picture.

So where do you find your inner ‘charcoal’? Find out more about The Shefa Method – Creative Meditation with extra stars!

What is Spiritual Healing?

Can anyone learn spiritual healing? Or is it a gift? Can we focus on spiritual dimensions and summon assistance in the healing process? And what is spirit, anyway?

Shefa Healing | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

‘Spiritual’ healing or ‘energy’ healing?

In the 1990s I trained as a ‘spiritual healer’ in England with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers, now called The Healing Trust. Some of the earliest members of the NFSH (founded in 1954) had been what you might call ‘old school healers’. They believed the invisible power of God could be brought to their clients by a simple technique – the ‘laying on of hands’.

By the time I was following the NFSH accreditation courses, many so-called New Age ideas had crept into their teaching: chakras, auras and crystals had never been in the vocabulary of the founding healers, who would say things like ‘you just get out of the way and let God sort the problem’. The more complex, New Age version of spiritual healing is what people nowadays describe as ‘energy healing’.

Reiki and Seichem healing

Shefa Healing | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method
Reiki healing is a popular form of energy healing.

Most people reading this blog will know something about the more recent healing modalities that blossomed late last century. You may have trained in the most popular therapy, Reiki, which is now an acceptable complementary therapy. It is welcomed by some conventional organisations, such as medical practices and hospices. I personally haven’t trained in these areas, so I can’t offer any testimony, or considered commentary, but many people report satisfactory, sometimes remarkable, results.

The fact that Reiki has become so popular suggests that this methodology has the power to help people through difficult times. Although, correctly, practitioners do not claim to cure illnesses. When dealing with physically or emotionally challenging problems, clients are always recommended to include Reiki along side conventional allopathic (drug- and surgery-based) medical practices. However, there are stories circulating that, when the regular medics run out of options, people diagnosed with terminal illnesses may turn, as a last resort, to energy healing. They often find their terminal issue goes ‘into remission’ and they continue living, against the odds predicted by the medical profession.

Reiki involves placing hands on the client’s body, Seichem (pronounced say-keem) is a variant of Reiki and involves manipulation of the client’s aura as well. More information about both these modalities can be found on the Reiki and Seichem Association’s website.

How does spiritual healing work?

Experiments have demonstrated that these healing modalities are not simply based on the ‘placebo effect’ – in other words, because people believe they will work. The International Reiki Organisation has some very useful articles on how Reiki works, including an account of controlled trials and improvement in blood health.

Basically, what we learn is that a ‘life force’ flows through us and creates a harmonious energy field around us. This can be vulnerable to disruption due to trauma or life-situation – external influences – or from negative thoughts and feelings – internal influences. When either of these happens, the successful flow of energy to our cells and vital organs is inhibited.

For healing to take place, a Reiki healer promotes changes in the energy field by introducing various energetic symbols they learned when they were ‘attuned’ by a ‘Master’, who claims lineage from the original Japanese Reiki Master and ascetic shaman, Mikai Usui, who died in 1926. Gautama Sakyamuni, the Buddha, ‘gave’ it to him, according to Usui. The Healing Trust doesn’t claim to ‘attune’ people, they just teach a series of general hands-on healing techniques. Other healers feel they have a natural gift.

Is there more than one kind of life force?

Shefa Healing | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method
Henri Bergson, French philosopher (1859–1941).

Early in the last century, the French expression elan vital, meaning ‘life force’, was coined by the French philosopher, Henri Bergson, in his book, Creative Evolution. Bergson was an immensely popular speaker, a philosopher rock star who drew large audiences to his talks, especially in America. This was how the term elan vital filtered into Western culture. People who didn’t want to use the word ‘God’ felt comfortable with the idea of ‘life force’. What is a bit puzzling in modern spiritual healing descriptions is the idea that various healing therapies are accessing different kinds of life forces, as though there is more than one!

Shefa Healing | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

The Chinese word qi, sometimes spelled chi or ki, means ‘life energy’. In Hindu philosophy, the Sanskrit word prana is translated as breath, life force or vital principle. In this system there are several ‘types’ of prana and an elaborate model describing the flow of energy in the human body. There are three major nadis, or channels, through which energy flows up and down the spine. Here, seven spinning wheels of energy called chakras process the energy flow. I always think these are rather like the lock-gates we build when we channel water through canal systems. According to yogic practice, the chakras are always spinning at different speeds. Hindu scriptures suggest this powerful energy emanates from the Sun.

By the way, the original yogic systems do not identify colours for chakras. That’s a Western overlay, developed by modern New Age teachers.

Many words, one life force

Other words for the life force, the ever-flowing power that sustains and animates Creation are:

shefa Hebrew
anima Latin
ruh Arabic
pneuma Greek
mana Polynesian
orenda Amerindian

They’re all different words, but they describe the same energy, the same life force. My conviction is there is only one life force – we just experience the energy in a variety of ways. This means we can establish a variety of reliable options for working with this power. Some of these may stimulate very positive results. The effects may be livelier with some systems than with others. Like a pianist, the energy field of the healer will also have an impact. Yes, anyone can learn to play if they persevere, but only a limited number will become concert performers who move their audiences.

So… what is spiritual healing then?

Shefa Healing | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

Any system designed to encourage the harmonious flow of the life force is a spiritual healing modality. When the life force is flowing easily, all levels of our being will naturally tend towards well-being. Any of these modalities can offer such an opportunity.

Shefa Healing

You probably already know that I teach a creative meditation technique, The Shefa Method, which rebalances your shefa while also taking advantage of the unique creative possibilities that open up to you when in a deep place of meditation. This technique also offers powerful healing possibilities. People who learn the Shefa Method for personal use find a variety of health issues gradually lifting. I also train students to use the Shefa Method as a healing modality. Click here to read a case study by a qualified Shefa Healer.

If you want to learn the Shefa Method – perhaps with a view to training as a Shefa Healer – follow this link for all the information. Any questions, please do email me.

Ceremonies, Calendars and Pilgrimages

Many years ago, when I lived in Oxfordshire, we used to invite friends to celebrate the seasons with us. Meditation, poetry, music and yummy food were the ingredients for a magical evening together. We put together a calendar to include eight festivals, based on the celebrations that have been popular for thousands of years in the Northern hemisphere. These special events mark the turning of the solar year: the equinoxes and solstices, as well as the cross-quarters – dates midway between a solstice and an equinox.

A friend of ours, Sally Morgan, gave us a magical silk painting to illustrate the eight festivals, which we named after the annual cycle of growth, blossoming, fruiting and decay of a deciduous tree.
First Fruits | Theolyn Cortens Shefa Method

Date* Astronomical Our festival Selection of other festivals
20 March Spring Equinox Sticky Buds Ostara, Easter, Persian and Muslim New Year.
5/6 May 1st Cross-Quarter Blossoms May Day, Beltane.
20/21 June Summer Solstice Golden Boughs Ancient Greek New Year, Sioux Sun Dance, World Humanist Day(!)
7 August 2nd Cross-Quarter First Fruits Lughnassad.
22/23 September Autumn Equinox Falling Leaves Harvest Festival.
7 November 3rd Cross-Quarter Deep Roots Samhain, Guy Fawkes Night, All Saints Day, Hallowe’en, Mexican Day of the Dead.
21/22 December Winter Solstice Yule Christmas, New Year’s Day.
3/4 February 4th Cross-Quarter New Shoots Candlemas, Imbolc.
*Dates may vary by a day or two from year to year.

It felt important to me that we identified these celebrations with names that had no connection to the various religious festivals that take place around those significant points in the year. I didn’t want to identify them as a particular tradition, so we also avoided using the old Celtic names, such as Imbolc, Beltane, Samhain, and so on.

Our gatherings were mostly informal, with people bringing poems, songs, circle dances and food to share. And we always had a bonfire! It is a very magical experience, to create sacred ceremonies with like-minded folk, invoking the nature spirits and honouring the invisible powers that sustain Creation.

The eight points of the year’s turning wheel feel like natural opportunities to recognise the abundance we receive from Mother Earth. You don’t have to be ‘religious’ to find inspiration and delight from simple celebrations like these. But you need to be willing and open to the magic of the natural world, and be surprised when you voice your personal needs at a ceremony, and later find they have been answered. Nature recognises your willingness to be supported. She creates a cradle, a hammock, in which you can rest after making your contributions – which must always be according to your dharma, your life’s destiny. There’s no point in making offerings to invisible powers unless they come from your heart, from your own deep-seated REAL presence in the world. What the German philosopher Martin Heidegger called your Dasein: your essential, primordial being-ness. When you offer from your root, from your core (or your coeur – your heart), that’s when the magic begins.

Fire ceremony

At a heart-felt ceremony you will be doing magic for yourself, for others present, and for people beyond the limitations of the time-space dimension where the ceremony is taking place. In order to participate in any ceremony at such a deep level it is essential to be adept at accessing realms of inner space through your regular meditation practice.

From before history, spiritual practices have always included festivals according to the astronomical calendar, as the Sun progresses round its annual cycle. This in turn has been linked to significant agricultural stages of the year, as well as specific religious and other stories – Christmas, Easter and Hallowe’en being obvious examples from the Christian calendar; Guy Fawkes Night is linked to a non-religious historical event, although its origins are really to do with the astronomical cycle I’m talking about here.

The other essential spiritual practice, since time immemorial, has been the pilgrimage – a visit, often entailing a long haul journey on foot or by simple transport, to a sacred site. Why would the site be regarded as sacred? Perhaps because a saintly person had been born or died there. For instance, Canterbury Cathedral in England became a very famous focus for pilgrims, after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was murdered at the altar on instructions from the tyrannical King Henry II. In the early Middle Ages, between 1387 and 1400, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the famous Canterbury Tales, in which he describes various members of the pilgrimage travelling to pay respect at the tomb of the martyred saint. They prayed he might answer their prayers – perhaps to cure their gout, get them a ticket to heaven, or absolve them of sins so they had no need to fear hell.

Canterbury Pilgrims

Perhaps a famous mystic had seen a vision on a mountain top, or by a spring of water. Over generations, the site becomes more intensely sacred in its atmosphere, because hundreds, even thousands, of pilgrims have focussed their attention, love and heartfelt desires in that very same place, invoking help from saints, angels, or from the in-dwelling nature spirits (who are generally the precursors of the saints and angels anyway). A mountain here in Wales has a special reputation. Locally known as Carn Ingli (‘The Mountain of Angels’), legend tells us that the 6th-century Saint Brynach lived there as a hermit, in a cave on the mountain, where he communed with angels.

Carn Ingli, Pembrokeshire

There is a powerful, life-changing, karmic-shifting opportunity when we go on a pilgrimage. We can travel alone, or with a small number of friends, family or like-minded folk. Individual and group intentions carry the energy that begins to increase its vibrational potency, even before you set foot outside your front door. Your focus recalibrates the flowing cycles of time and space already in play – your choice to be a pilgrim makes a difference, for your own life and others.

We tend to think that reality is ‘out there’ waiting for us to step ‘into’ it. We have been taught that time and space are pre-existent, historical structures into which we have emerged, to be surrounded by material things and time-based events. But this is not true. Definitely NOT TRUE. Think again.

We are not in time and space. Time and space are in us. We create and co-create the world we experience. When we decide to make pilgrimage we are saying: What we are doing is sacred, because we have chosen to be sacred. We choose to conduct our lives as divine beings, creating and participating in a dance we are choreographing according to delightful patterns. We have designed those patterns according to our divine desires!

Cosmic nebula

The turning cycle of natural growth within the year and the cycles of the heavenly bodies reflect each other. Watch the cycles of change and take delight in them, but never feel you are subject to time. You are an eternal being who has stepped into the flow of history and your contribution will be simply to enjoy and give thanks.

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

There are still spaces on the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth Pilgrimage (March 24-28) and last-minute places are presently being offered at a big discount. If you are on a low income, you can also apply for a bursary to support you. Click here for details.

Thank you for your second Review

Check your email Inbox for a copy of your answers and retain for future reference.

This is important, as you will need to refer back to this later on in the course.

Many blessings,
Theolyn Cortens

How to be Happy in 2020

Being happy and fulfilled in life is important to us all, yet somehow we miss out on it. Why is this? Why can’t we just be happy?

Well, maybe we’re paying too much attention to the news of the day. At the beginning of 2020, threats to collective human happiness and prosperity seem to be looming. News feeds and social media are laden with foreboding. Astrological omens are gloomy. The present transits of heavy-duty outer planets through the stern sign of Capricorn are bringing up challenges for everyone.

Can we survive climate change? Can we survive the mad behaviour of tyrants and politicians, whose toddler temper tantrums seem could escalate to another world war? Can we cope with economic issues, both at a personal and a national level? How can we go about our daily business, free from anxiety for the future for our children, grandchildren, for all those we love?

If we have any spiritual maturity at all, then we are aware that life will always include events that we don’t enjoy. We also know that what does not kill us makes us stronger (so said Friedrich Nietzsche).

To find the good news that makes us happy, we need to look towards eternal truths and avoid allowing our mindscape to become entangled with the temporary noise of the day. The mystical poet and painter William Blake said:

Joy and Woe are woven fine,
As clothing for the Soul divine,
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

So here are my suggested seven activities that can reveal the ‘silken twine of joy’. Get going as soon as possible to make yourself happy…

1. Be happy by meditating twice a day

Meditation makes you happy

As you know, I offer the Shefa Method as a remarkable and powerful ‘super meditation-plus’ technique. If you are already happy with a meditation technique you have tried and tested, then continue with that. But 2020, with all the additional pressures on your life — personal and global — is a time when you need to expand your consciousness. This will benefit you, your family, your community and the whole world. So take an advanced course or retreat, and refresh your spirit, mind, heart and body. Everyone needs you to be at your peak this year, so do some about that now!

2. Declutter your environment to bring joy and happiness to others as well

Declutter your way to happiness!

This is a heart-expanding exercise and 2020 is a year when as many people as possible need to find way to be open-hearted. This counteracts any tendency we may have shrink into fear mode and become overly self-protective. Choose your charity with care, so that the whole process becomes spiritually meaningful as well, as an act of personal cleansing. Also, give ‘stuff’ away, and find opportunities to offer your time to support  charitable activities that call to your heart. If you are selling unwanted goods on eBay, opt in to their system where you can give a percentage of your earnings to a charity of your choice. You can find some good help in your quest for a decluttered life here.

3. Make sure real fire plays a part in your new happy life!

Sacred fire is happy fire

It would be brilliant if you could find a place for a regular bonfire, preferably in your own garden or back yard. There are excellent outdoor products designed for gardens that keep fire well contained, even if you only have a small area. (I found a basic fire pit on Amazon for under £30).

Fire is the most powerful spiritual element – Zoroastrian priests have kept a sacred fire burning in Yazd in Iran for over 1,500 years! (See it in this YouTube video).

Your personal fire ritual can include cleansing your life of old papers or photographs. So this process could be an extension of your de-cluttering activities (see above). But this could also be an act of reconnecting with your divine spark, the fire inside you. Don’t just use the fire to burn rubbish. Make a ceremony on a special day and add incense, especially frankincense, to your fire. Invoke Archangel Michael, who is the planetary spirit for the Sun. This ritual will be especially helpful during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, when sunshine can be scarce.

4. Find a place where you can bathe happily in natural surroundings, preferably naked

Nothing is more joyful than skinny dipping

Do this in on your own as a spiritual exercise of surrender to the element of water, from which you were born. Make sure you dip right under the water, like a full baptism, or mikveh. This is not only emotionally refreshing, but reclaims our innate awareness that Nature is benevolent. A very good time to do this would be on, or near, your birthday. Much more joyful than eating cake! But you could also celebrate by lighting candles.

If your timing coincides with cold weather, or if natural water is not available for you, then create an at-home version. Make a ritual in your own bathroom. Make sure you will not be disturbed for at least an hour. Use quality natural mineral salts, such as Epsom, Dead Sea or Himalayan Pink, but not bubbles or commercial bath products. However, filling the room with natural aromas, such as pine, cypress or other essences will help create a feeling of being in a natural environment. Surround your bath with tea lights.

Read more about bathing naked and maybe even join in one of their summer events at The Great British Skinny Dip.

5. Plant anything you can, anywhere you are allowed

Plant trees to bring happy vibes for generations

This is a lovely thing to do, especially with a view to the long-term – trees are brilliant. If you don’t have your own space to plant trees, check out your area to see if there are any tree-planting projects, or community activities focussed on reclaiming neglected land. (A good list of tree planting organisations can be found on Dr James Borrell’s blog page here).

The least you could do is grow your own herbs in pots by your kitchen door, or on your windowsill. Whenever you plant anything, make a ritual process to honour the spirit of the plant, and make a commitment to nurture it as it grows. You might like to explore which herbs and plants are special for your significant zodiac signs (your Sun, Moon and Ascendant signs).

6. Go on a pilgrimage to a place of special joy

You are at your happiest in a place that is special to you

This doesn’t need to be to a religious site (although there are still places on the Chartres Labyrinth pilgrimage I’m offering in March!) This is a personal exercise to make you happy. You could choose to visit a place where you felt joyful as a young child. Or the place where you met your partner. This could be a building or town with personal connections, or a place in a natural environment that just makes you feel truly happy! You could use this pilgrimage to pay respects to someone you want to honour, either in your own history or ancestry, or someone you revere as a wise teacher, or a creative who has inspired you. Remember also, pilgrimages are about the journey as much as the destination, so it begins as soon as you leave your door. You may want to watch this YouTube conversation with Rupert Sheldrake, who, as I’m sure you know, is not just a great scientist but also a great fan of pilgrimage as a spiritual process.

7. Create a special meal – for any reason you can come up with!

Happy food means happy people

Not the usual birthdays, anniversaries and so on. Just make an excuse to spend time making a feast, then invite people round for lunch, afternoon tea or supper. Make sure the table is beautifully laid with any lovely decorations you can find. Include greenery and flowers growing nearby. Choose dishes that challenge your cooking expertise. You might like to identify a special theme and keep all the food within certain culinary traditions. Or you might like to indulge in nostalgia and make party food that your guests would have enjoyed when they were children.These days, even mainstream chefs are embracing vegan food. Jamie Oliver, for instance, has some good ideas.

As this will be like a party, you might like to have a lucky dip gift box. Cover a large cardboard box with decorative wrapping paper. Fill it with shredded paper or packing raffia (which is reusable). Ask everyone who comes to bring a surprise low-cost but fun gift, purchased from a local charity shop. Let them know the maximum amount to spend. They need to wrap their gift and hide it in the box, with no identifying label.

I enjoyed writing this and I’m already mulling over ideas for my number seven – I’ll keep you updated!

Thank you for your first Review

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Many blessings,
Theolyn Cortens

Bringers of Gifts

The Slavic ‘Ded Morez’ or ‘Saxta Baba’ – Grandfather Frost.

Ancient mythologies and old folkloric tales always include the archetype of an old man who brings gifts around the time of the Winter Solstice. This splendid white-bearded chap is Ded Morez or Saxta Baba – Grandfather Frost. He is a popular winter folk character in Russian and Slavic countries. Usually he wears blue, but sometimes he is dressed in red – just like Father Christmas. He brings gifts for good children – usually on New Year’s Eve, since this tradition is celebrated in Muslim or secular countries, where Christians are in the minority. Ded Morez has a long white beard, walks with a magic staff, like a magician, wears a fur hat and felt boots. He rides in a troika – a sleigh with three horses – and is often accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden:

Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden.

The well-known Christian story describes the arrival of three men, described in the gospels as ‘magi’ – not ‘kings’ – who bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts for the Christ child.

The three Magi.

The magi were Zoroastrian magician-priests, who were also astrologers. It is likely the ‘star’ they were following was a conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter, which would have been bright in the skies around the year 7 CE.

Both the Ded Morez tradition and the gospel story of the magi are echoes through the ages, echoes of our ancient ancestors who practiced divination and magic. At the time Jesus was born, magic was an accepted reality across the Roman Empire. It was not until Christianity was established as a state religion that astrology and magic were marginalised, we could say ‘excommunicated’. Perhaps that was why the ‘magi’ became ‘kings’ (who have a very different status).

Saint Nicholas – a very papal character.

In later Christmas traditions we meet St. Nicholas. He also brings gifts, often oranges, for poor children who have left out their clogs on the night before his feast day December 6th.. He eventually morphs from a high-minded Christian saint into the jolly Santa Claus we know today. Old images of St Nicholas show him dressed in his bishop’s gown, with his staff and mitre. But Santa Claus and Ded Morez are definitely wearing pre-Christian garb. The trousers worn by Santa, tucked into boots, and the wide belt buckled round his tunic, as well as his fur-edged cap, are most likely derived from the garments worn by Scythian warriors. The Scythians were originally a nomadic people who lived in southern Siberia, but they developed the trade routes still known today as ‘the Silk Road’ and founded a rich powerful empire centred on the Crimea. Maybe the bringing of gifts was associated with their trade in spices, silks, precious metals and gems.

These traditions all tell us a similar story about how, at the winter solstice festival, there is some magic in the air! Jupiter is the god of jollity and he rules the December sign of Sagittarius. Think of the Spirit of Christmas Present we find in Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol:

The ghost of Christmas Present.

So this is definitely the best time of year to bring gifts to friends and family, and to make donations for the poor.


The reason I write my books, newsletters and blogs, the reason I teach The Shefa Method, is to take you by the hand, so to speak, and lead you to knowledge of your own Divinity.