The Little Book and the Big Book

Guava_leaves_sunlightOne day, toward the end of Cameron’s nap when I thought he would soon be waking, I went out to the yard. There he was, lying on his back in the carriage, fully awake but perfectly still. He was looking at the light dappling through the leaves of the fig tree. I paused to watch him. After a while, he lifted his arms toward the light in a type of response. I was witnessing a communion with the Glory that dapples through creation. And as I stood watching Cameron, I remembered, perhaps now the earliest memory of my life, doing exactly the same thing as an infant, lying under a tree watching light dapple.

The great Irish teacher John Scotus Eriugena taught that God speaks to us through two books. One is the little book, he says, the book of scripture, physically little. The other is the big book, the book of creation, vast as the universe. Just as God speaks to us through the words of scripture, so God speaks to us through the elements of creation. The cosmos is like a living sacred text that we can learn to read and interpret. Just as we prayerfully ponder the words of the Bible in Christian practice, and as other traditions study their sacred texts, so we are invited to listen to the life of creation as an ongoing, living utterance of God.

The problem is that we hardly know the alphabet of that language. We have not been taught to read creation with the same devotion as we read scripture. But it is not because we have not been addressed. Some of our earliest memories of life are of being spoken to through creation. We remember as children lying on our backs in the grass gazing up into the infinity of the skies. We remember with open-eyed wonder watching light reflect off flowing water, whether in the purity of a country stream or in the gullies of a city street after rainfall. So it is not that we have not been addressed. And it is not that we are not being addressed now. It is that we have forgotten. And in many cases, it is because we have been educated out of listening to the sacred sounds of creation.

Newell, John Philip. Christ of the Celts. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. | Photo courtesy of מינוזיג, published on Wikicommons.

The Grace of Awakening

e_DSC8542The grace of awakening is one of becoming aware of who we truly are, and choosing to live out of that truth. The story of the father trying to wake his son up for school in the morning makes this point. The son responded to the knocking at his bedroom door by saying, ‘I am not going to get up, and I shall tell you three reasons why: the first is because I hate education, the second is because the children tease me, and the third is because education is boring.’ To this the father replied, ‘You are going to get up, and I shall tell you three reasons why: the first is because it is your duty to get up, the second is because you are forty-five years old, and the third is because you are the headmaster.’ We need to wake up to who we are.

Not only is it an awakening but a choosing to get up, as it were, or to live according to the truth that has been spoken within us. The grace that enables us to become more aware of who we are is one that can stir also within us the desire to be conformed to that truth. Just as Jesus told the paralysed man who lay on his bed to stand and walk, so there are creativities within us that have not only been undiscovered but unused, and in being unused are underdeveloped, if not entirely seized up. Being awakened to a creative depth will be the initial kindling within us of a desire to be restored or reconnected to that creativity. The grace of awakening is one that can lead us further and further into the truth of who we are. What is it that will so awaken and restore us? Where are we to look or listen?

Newell, John Philip. One Foot in Eden: A Celtic View of the Stages of Life. New York: Paulist Press, 1999. | Photo courtesy of Chuck Summers

Ways of Seeing

IMG_7739Like an infant’s open-eyed wonder

and the insights of a wise grandmother,

like a young man’s vision for justice

and the vitality that shines in a girl’s face,

like tears that flow in a friend bereaved

and laughter in a lover’s eyes,

you have given us ways of seeing, O God,

you have endowed us with sight like your own.

Let these be alive in us this day,

let these be alive in us.

From Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter by John Philip Newell | Photo courtesy of Karin Baard

Prayer of Blessing

Haystack Rock

May the angels of light

glisten for us this day.

May the sparks of God’s beauty

dance in the eyes of those we love.

May the universe

be on fire with Presence for us this day.

May the new sun’s rising

grace us with gratitude.

Let earth’s greenness shine

and its waters breathe with Spirit.

Let heaven’s winds stir the soil of our soul

and fresh awakenings rise within us.

May the almighty angels of light

glisten in all things this day.

May they summon us to reverence,

may they call us to life.


From Praying with the Earth by John Philip Newell | Photo courtesy of Ben Lindwall

Let our soul breathe hope

Our friends at The Work of the People have produced a stunning video featuring a prayer by John Philip Newell. Watch below.



May We Know that We Are Beloved

 Storm and rain.Ghost Ranch

A number of years ago during one of my visits to New Harmony, I was walking along the Wabash River, which flows with its broad and mighty current along the outskirts of town. It was evening, and halfway through my walk a wild storm blew in. I was close to the Angel of Compassion, and there was no other place to seek shelter. I felt awkward about physically entering a piece of art, but, believing that my brother Tobi Kahn would forgive me, I huddled under the great granite archway and found myself standing immediately next to the angel of compassion.

It was dark, and I could not remember exactly what the sculpture’s words of inscription were, but my memory was, “Every Human Being is the Beloved of the Nameless Eternal One.” So, as the wind and rain whirled about me in the darkness and the sound of the river in spate grew, I began to repeat over and over a simple prayer in my heart. “May I know that I am beloved. May I know that I am beloved. May I know that I am beloved.” My mind took me to haunted places within myself where I doubt that I am beloved—places in my body and mind and soul. I remembered times in my life when I had been ugly and false in my actions. I thought of how little I was doing for the transformation of the world, of how little of myself I was giving away for the sake of others.

“May I know that I am beloved,” I prayed. “May I know that I am beloved.”

After a while, the storm abated. It was time to leave and head back to town. Or so I thought. I was only fifty yards from the archway when the rains came again. They drove me back to the angel of compassion for a second time. So again I prayed, but this time the words were, “May she know that she is beloved. May she know that she is beloved.” I named within myself people whom I love. I thought of my sister who had experienced betrayal and the collapse of her marriage. I longed for her to know that she was beautiful in her mind and body and soul. That she was beloved. I thought of my friend struggling through chemotherapy and seeking the strength to look death in the face. “May he know that he is beloved. May he know that he is beloved.”

Again the storm dropped. And again I began to walk toward town, but a third time the rains came and drove me back to the angel. So for a third time I prayed. But this time it was, “May we know that we are beloved. May we know that we are beloved.” My thoughts turned to Iraq, to Palestine, to places of deep wrong and abuse in our cities and among us as nations, where we forget that the other is beloved. My heart was aware of children who doubt that they are loved because of the neglect they suffer. I thought of creatures and entire species who are struggling because of our failure to love the earth.

“May we know that we are beloved. May we know that we are beloved.”

Is there a prayer more central than this? Is there something deeper than this for us to know in our bodies and minds if we are to be well and if we are to give ourselves for one another’s well-being? Three times I was led to the angel. Three times I prayed these words in repetition. But I suppose it is three times a day that I need to pray them, or three times an hour. I know that I need this prayer, and I know that my journey is only one particular expression of the common journey of humanity and the earth. I know that my need is part of our need and part of the earth’s need. And I know that I not only need the angel of compassion in the archway of this moment in my life but that I am part of the messenger of compassion in the archway of this moment in our world. If together we are to be well, we must know ourselves to be bearers of compassion, inclining to one another and to the earth with presence.

Newell, John Philip. A New Harmony. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Prayer of Awareness

Blue Mountain sunrise (h)

The peace of morning’s stillness

the peace of new beginnings

the peace of heaven’s kiss

to welcome us to this day

to root us in this day

to free us for this day

that we may grow with the greening earth

that we may grow from the ground of glory

that we may grow in grateful wonder

of You

Gracious Giver of this day

Great Giver of this new day.

From Praying with the Earth by John Philip Newell | Photo courtesy of Chuck Summers










Camino Peace Pilgrimage with Ben Lindwall and Mohamed Kiari


7 – 15 April 2018

Religion is at the heart of some of the most conflicted places of violence and hatred in our world. Peace between us as nations and the healing of the earth will be served by peace and healing between us as religious traditions.


Our 2018 Camino Peace Pilgrimage, a collaboration between Heartbeat and the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy, will consist of 14 people (intergenerational) from many religious traditions and spiritual backgrounds walking 100 miles/160 km of the ancient Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route together.

Each day will include various spiritual practices (yoga, meditation, and prayer), hearing each other’s stories, and about 10-18 mi/16-29 km of walking. There will also be short periods of time set aside for silence as we walk the Spanish countryside and northern coast. The group will eat breakfast and dinner at each hosting albergue and lunches will be in small-town marketplaces.


Do you have a special interest in multi-faith spirituality, environmentalism, or peace activism? Please apply! A valid passport for the U.K. and Spain are required.


7 – 15 April 2018

We will begin in Edinburgh, Scotland with an evening meal together on 7th April at the home of John Philip and Ali Newell, flying to Spain on 8th April, then walking the Camino Del Norte for six days, from Santander to Ribadesella, and returning to Edinburgh on 15th April. Participants will need to arrange their own travel to Edinburgh for the beginning of the pilgrimage. 


General Scholarship (space for four participants in total)

Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form by 8 February 2018. We will notify successful candidates by 15 February 2018. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Non-scholarship (space for four participants in total)

Successful applications will pay a participant fee of $950 (*see extra costs below).

Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form by 8 February 2018. We will notify successful candidates by 15 February 2018. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Scholarship for University of Edinburgh Students (space for six participants in total)

Successful applications will pay a participant fee of £100 (*see extra costs below).

Please complete the online application and have a teacher, mentor, spiritual leader, or advisor fill out the online reference form by 8 February 2018. We will notify successful candidates by 15 February 2018. All fees will be invoiced through PayPal.

Successful applicants will receive the following:

  • Airfare from Edinburgh, Scotland to Santander, Spain (and return)
  • Sleeping accommodations for seven nights during the pilgrimage
  • Breakfast and dinner each day
  • Bus and train transportation in Spain
  • Admission to Tito Bustillo Caves Tour in Ribadesella and Gaudi House in Comillas
  • Guided navigation on the Camino del Norte (northern route of the Camino de Santiago)
  • Complimentary copy of The Rebirthing of God by John Philip Newell (to be read before the pilgrimage)

Extra Costs:

  • All non-students will be required to pay a $10 application fee which will be invoiced through PayPal
  • Individual travel insurance
  • Lunch each day: $8 / €6 / £5 per day for a total of $56 / €44 / £35 for the week
  • Equipment: each participant will be required to supply their own equipment (small backpack, sturdy hiking shoes, rain jacket, etc.). A packing list will be sent a few months before the pilgrimage
  • Travel fare to and from Edinburgh, Scotland (if applicable)


The Camino Peace Pilgrimage is a physically rigorous experience. Multiple days include walking up to 18 miles/29 kilometers in a day, often with challenging elevation changes and a lot of long and steep hills. Pilgrims are expected to train extensively to prevent pain or injury while on the walk. While some of the accommodations are very nice, some include a bunk bed in a simple hostel, and a few nights include a shared queen size bed with one other person. During group sharing time, participants are sometimes sitting on the ground or floor. All participants will be required to sign a waiver release.

Interfaith Leaders

The Pilgrimage will be co-led by Ben Lindwall, Executive Director of Heartbeat, and Mohamed Kiari, a 2015 Camino Peace Pilgrim.

photoBen lives in Portland, Oregon USA, where he and his family practice energy conservation in their tiny house. Ben has been leading group experiences for over a decade in various capacities. He has been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell over the past few years and is a certified Spiritual Director. Ben has been the Executive Director at Heartbeat since 2013, working with people from all over the world to advance a vision of healing, transformation, and peace. Coming from an evangelical Christian background, and now like many of his generation, Ben considers himself spiritual without any formal religious membership. He and his wife Jen have two young children.

“A pilgrimage is always an opportunity to be re-born. I’ve seen and experienced the power of leaving behind the safety and comfort of home on a quest for deeper understanding, awareness, and connection. The act of moving our bodies, moving our feet gently upon the earth in unison can be a kind of soul-march. It reminds us of our true identity, our oneness, and creates liminal space to hear and know our calling. In co-leading this pilgrimage, I hope to cultivate an environment for each of us to learn and grow.” – Ben Lindwall


photo3Mohamed pursued a BSc in Engineering in his home country, Libya, between 2001 and 2006, where he graduated with Honours. After that, he traveled to the UK for postgraduate studies where he obtained an MSc and a Ph.D. degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Edinburgh. During his time at the university, he was an active member of the Edinburgh University chaplaincy, and he helped in organizing events in support of interfaith dialogue. Mohamed currently works as a structural design engineer in an engineering consultancy. He works and lives in St. Albans, UK.

“In Arabic, the word ‘travel’ means to explore and discover. My journey with El Camino pilgrimage in 2015 was an incredible experience of learning and discovery. The pilgrimage brought us togehter from a broad spectrum of cultures. We shared our wide diverse faiths and spiritualities. Every day a new story, a new perspective, and a better understanding. We have found a unity in our diversity. We started the journey only knowing each other’s names, but by the end of our walk we were like brothers and sisters.” – Mohamed Kiari


Photos from previous Camino Peace Pilgrimages





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Ashton Gustafson Interviews John Philip Newell

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“At the heart of your being is the holy.”

- John Philip Newell

Ashton Gustafson interviews John Philip Newell for his podcast Let the Music Play in a discussion that delves into Celtic Spirituality, John Philip’s books, and more. Though recorded a continent apart, this intimate conversation between Ashton and John Philip will draw you in and speak to your soul. You don’t want to miss a moment of it!

Click here to listen to the podcast on Ashton Gustafson’s blog.

Click here to stream the podcast on iTunes.


Migrant God, Show Me How to Love

Ben and Daniel on the Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage

Ben and Daniel on the Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage

Dear HeartbeatFamily,

I often hear something that stops me in my tracks while on pilgrimage. As our cohort walked along the Pacific Coast of Oregon last September, Mira said a prayer that I will never forget.

Mira is a neighborhood organizer working with the Hispanic community, some of them undocumented immigrants, in Portland, OR. She attends a faith community that has declared itself a Sanctuary Community, and her work helps build a bridge between English speakers and Spanish speakers. Mira was selected to receive a Heartbeat scholarship to attend our Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage, a 42-mile walk with an intention of fostering connections for our soul and the earth and discerning our role in the world’s healing.

On the third day of the walk, our group paused and together made a labyrinth in the sand on the beach. As the tide slowly crept in, each pilgrim made their way to the center of the labyrinth and back again. After we shared our experience and Mira’s words went straight to the heart:

labyrinth“As I made my way to the center of the labyrinth, I turned inward, rooting into the deep well of love within. A prayer arose and repeated as I breathed in and out: Migrant God, show me how to love. At the center, with heart and hands and eyes open toward the ocean, I took it all in. Everything I needed was there, in and around me.”

It is moments like this that remind me of the critical importance of our work at Heartbeat and the support that we are able to offer those taking direct action in resisting the injustices of our time. After our walk, Mira had this to share:

“I feel called to show up with and for people on the margins, and on the pilgrimage, I felt a pull to consider how I am or am not showing up for myself and for my family. I left reminded of the need to tend and care for myself and the relationships closest to me in order to show up for others and to engage in the work of changing oppressive systems.”

Will you make a gift today and help us continue to advance the Celtic vision of John Philip and Ali Newell, listening for the heartbeat of the Sacred in all things? Thank you for your partnership and support on this incredible journey. The generosity of the Heartbeat family provides vital support for the work of healing and transformation.


Ben Signature



Ben Lindwall, Executive Director

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