"Once Finn MacCool and his hunters were discussing 'the finest music in all the world.' The question was posed as a riddle. What is the finest music in the world? One hunter said it was the sound of a stag belling across the lake. Another said it was the sound of rain falling on the leaves. The laughter of a young girl, suggested one of them. The sound of dogs yelping during the chase, or water falling over stone, or the wind in the grass. Each hunter had a candidate for the finest music in the world.

"Then they asked Finn what he thought it was. He answered, 'The finest music in all the world is the music of what is happening.' "

This wonderful story is told by Tom Cowan (Fire in The Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit) in his new book. He offers workshops on shamanism and Celtic spirituality around the country. The very fine illustrative material in this paperback comes from the rich teachings of medieval mystics, Celtic songs, Native Americans, and legends of fairies. Cowan emphasizes again and again the mystical connections between the natural world and the human soul. Whereas many others who write on this subject do so on a purely abstract level, the author includes many spiritual practices that can be done outdoors (see the spiritual practice on beauty). Also don't miss his meditations on listening to the wind or using song to heal.

Cowan, you see, knows that the finest music in all the world is the music of what is happening. He impresses with his wide range of knowledge. Check out his references to the Cherokee appreciation of rivers as "great Long Persons" or the Celtic understanding of the Trinity as "The Shaper of Life, the Shape of Life, the Shaping of Life." Here's one of our favorite passages:

"As old Gaelic blessing says, 'You are the pure love of the moon, you are the pure love of the stars, you are pure love of the sun...and the dew....and the rain...and (finally) you are the pure love of every creature." The Scottish Highlanders bless each other with expressions like these: 'The love and affection of the moon be yours, the love and affection of the sun be yours, the love and affection of the stars be yours,' and on and on, including other natural elements until: 'The love and affection of each living creature be yours.' It strains our modern sensibilities, and triggers our calloused cynicism, to entertain the thought that we live in a loving and affectionate universe. Imagine how your life would change if you believed this. Imagine how you would have to change your life if you believed this."

Yearning for the Wind is just the right resource for those who want to tap into the primal pleasures of the natural world with soul and creativity.

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