The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Internet down for days, due to storm (and no doubt the wrong kind of wind in the lines!). We're at the very edge of the exchange, and in rain and wind our poor less-than-half-a-megabyte whimpers and dies. I hope those of you in more exposed places – thinking here of friends in the Hebrides – survived unscathed.
So where was I? – In the interests of opening a little breathing space, I think I'll just offer a small collage here today.
On the high lane the wind was delicious in my hair, and had cleared the clouds, temporarily, from the moor. Between Haytor and Houndtor a splay of watery wintry light picked out the last-of-upland-pasture edging the moor in that bright lime green against the greyishness. And now at last the snowdrops are out, and it almost feels, today, like near-spring.
I think, as I so often do, of these last lines from Seamus Heaney's poem 'Postscript':
'... You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And find the heart unlatched and blow it open.'
(NB this is a slightly different version from the one that closes the wonderful Bloodaxe anthology Staying Alive)
I love radio 4. I caught a couple of snatches yesterday, driving to the post office – we live about 5 miles away from one, so it's not usually possible to walk during a working day, and there's an extremely long hill - miles of it – back up to cycle, miserable in horrendous storms.
First was Rachel Denton being interviewed by John McCarthy. This little snippet caught my attention and occupied much of my mind on the journey there and back: 'I think we're always on the edge of ourselves.'
Later, just as I was about to get out of the car, I heard a couple of snippets from 'Saving Species'. Did you know this, for instance, about the little pretty dark brown leathery 'mermaid's purses' that are washed up on our shores: they once housed a shark embryo. Shark as predators use electrical impulses to track their prey. The embryo does it the other way round: even 'in uterus' (ie the mermaid's purse), the developing embryo can detect electrical impulses emitted by predators and respond by ceasing all movement, even of its gills.
I also learned that dung beetles, in order not to go round in circles and end up tottering into the same dung heap, navigate by the Milky Way, apparently – how astonishing is that?
I've been rereading Coleman Barks' human, insightful and inspired translation of the ecstatic poems of Rumi, a Sufi dervish from the early C13th. The Sufi mystics saw our search as being for union with the Divine, and the Divine as inhabiting all. If you buy any Rumi, do make sure (unless of course you can read the original!) that it's Barks' translation – far and away the best.
Here are a few fragments:
Why should I seek? I am the same as
he. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!
Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.
Gone, inner and outer,
no moon, no ground or sky.
The wine we really drink is our own blood.
Our bodies ferment in these barrels.
We give everything for a glass of this.
We give our minds for a sip.
Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street.
I took it as a sign to start singing,
falling up into the bowl of sky.
The bowl breaks. Everything is falling everywhere.
Nothing else to do.
Here's the new rule: break the wineglass,
and fall towards the glassblower's breath.
Friday, 25 January 2013
I posted this photo a few months ago. (I'm impressed that the 'powers that be' let this remain for so long before restoring the name of Vire, the Normandy town with which it's usually twinned. Helps to have liberal Greens on the councils, no doubt.) Says a lot!
I rather take what we have for granted, having lived here before, in my 20s, and having espoused the holistic model myself via the counter-culture that I encountered as an A-level student in the early 70s, and most of my friends and the people I work with share these views, to one extent or another. It's easy to be blasé.
Sometimes it takes an 'outsider' to remind us how unusual Totnes is, how lucky we are here: ever since the Elmhirsts bought Dartington estate early in the C20th, we've had an exceptional culture of vision – the arts, ideas of sustainability and new ways of relating to spirituality flourished; and still do.
It helps that both Resurgence magazine and Kindred Spirit were embedded in our area. Both have brought many fine and well-known speakers and thinkers here, carrying on the tradition that the Elmhirsts began.
Satish Kumar, the founder editor of Resurgence, set up Schumacher College, too, in – what – perhaps the early 90s. It has a worldclass reputation for bridging the arts/science divide that the Enlightenment bequeathed us, and it seems is one of the few, if not the only, place/s where one might read Holistic Science at degree level.
One of the interesting events in the town is the monthly Consciousness Café, set up by Max Velmans, Professor of Consciousness Studies at Goldsmiths, who lives here.
Last night he brought to us Dr Claudius van Wyk, to speak on 'Complexity, holism and consciousness'. Dr van Wyk is co-founder of the new Holism and Leadership course to be offered at Schumacher next year, and is a passionate advocate of the holistic approach to science (as opposed to the usual mechanistic model).
His own particular interest lies in the science of complexity and emergence, which he sees as being a way of facilitating, among other things, a 'new holistic world economic order': one that includes and transcends diversity to find unitive consciousness.
I understand, just about, the basic concept of complexity and emergence, but as a non-scientist I'm not in any way qualified to speak on it. Some of you readers will know more than I do about it anyway, probably. One thing he said in relation to this stuck with me, though: 'Complexity theory says that if one starts with deep engagement, the process too deepens, and transformation becomes possible.'
Apart from van Wyk's interest in holistic science – or rather I should of course say 'part of his interest in holistic science' – (he) incorporates applied ethics, sustainability and NLP ('neuro-linguistic programming' which, if you don't know this discipline, is not the frightening brainwashing model that the title might suggest, but a psychology – a profound form of learning to intervene with one's own habituated negative ways of viewing ourselves and the world by 'reframing' our experience, based – as all holistic thinking is – on an understanding of the fact that mind and matter are not really separate, and influence each other deeply).
His talk was inspiring, warm and engaging. I can't start to do him justice here, but there are a few paraphrased quotes I'd like to post, below.
A key concept in the holistic view that Van Wyk expressed well is something along the lines of 'The basic building block of the universe is not matter, but relationship, and the actions that promotes.'
We could say that that is the core idea at the heart of most spiritual systems, albeit expressed slightly differently. Arguably, 'relationship' and associated actions can be seen as an exchange of energy; again, this is a core concept in 'alternative' approaches to our view of the world.
Mechanistic science, of course, assumes a different picture: that, although energy clearly exists, matter is what's actually real, and to what one returns. Matter, says van Wyk (as I understood him), is a means of organisation of underlying relationships into recognisable outward patterns from their underpinning move towards patterning and form.
Simplistically speaking (this is me, the non-scientist, articulating my impression and paraphrasing van Wyk's elegant proposition), we could say that 'mind' is what starts to shape responses in relation to matter.
I'm reminded of Jungian James Hillman's comments on the dissociated views that we have adopted as part of our reductionist thinking, unaware as we are of the great underlying and subtle forces that shape our universe: 'Because of our neglect' (of the soul, of the spiritual dimensions of being – in other words our inability to see the universe as it really is, an interconnected and whole manifestation of Mind) 'the world is strewn with unrelated objects.'
V W opened the talk with a humorous quote from Sophia Loren, speaking on herself: 'What you see is all spaghetti.'
Van Wyk used this striking image to deliver a core thought: 'Mechanistic science cannot account for the transformation of pasta to Sophia Loren, nor of grass to horse. Holistic science can.' (I'm not sure whether that's his own thought, or whether it came from Jan Smuts, the founding father, as he sees it, of the holistic approach to the scientific worldview.)
So we moved towards the inescapable impression that the only thing that can really change the world is our transformed viewpoint.
There is much more to say, but here I will end with a beautiful closing quote: 'Mind is the eye of the universe beholding itself and knowing itself to be divine.'
Thank you, Dr van Wyk.
He's really captured the wild boar quality, I think – this one is so alive I can practically hear the grunts. Thank you, Michael, for permission to reproduce this fine fellow.
And the book is now up on Blurb: http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/4019081-the-polden-pig
The illustrations are something else! If you have a youngster in the family, they might like this...
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
I froze, being alone at the time in a secluded place without a torch, before my rational mind kicked in and told me that two big men trespassing or intent on trouble would be at pains to conceal their movements.
My rational mind also told me it was an absolutely enormous badger. Gigantic. A woolly mammoth of a badger. In wellies.
The prickling at the nape of my neck however was accompanied by the word BOAR. And it was insistent.
Much later, with my then lover who lives in France, we frequently saw wild boar in the ancient oakwoods, and would go out to listen and spot them in his meadow at dusk. They sound like a huge wind in the canopy as they stream down the hillside through the forest.
As I was telling myself, this time, that we didn't get wild boar in Devon, I remembered that of course we do, in fact. Some friends who own a café in Tavistock, the other side of the moor from here, saw one early one morning wandering past the café, up the hill.
And after said lover and I had split up (the relationship didn't ever work, though our friendship was, and is, good), back here in Devon, in fact on the little Bere peninsula in 2007, I frequently saw the tusk-tearings of the earth and their hoofprints in the fields near my cottage (I kept quiet about it as wild boar was turning up too often on pub menus for my liking; and in fact 'mine' disappeared).
That year there was a great deal of fuss in the local paper about boar spotted on Yelverton Common, 3 or 4 miles from where I saw their tracks. ('Someone might sprain their ankle running away from one; we need to shoot them,' opined one well-known journalist who should have known better.)
In my newest collection, All the Missing Names of Love, I have this poem about them:
Then I remembered seeing a little group at a pool on Dartmoor. So it may be that we have them here, too.
(I remember also seeing them a number of times from the Paddington to Penzance train beside the tracks near Reading.)
It seems that boar became extinct in the UK in around the 13th century, though later attempts were made, usually unsuccessfully, to reintroduce them.
They may, just may, be recolonising – I hope. Some of the Devon ones were let loose deliberately from a wild boar farm, I gather. Let the wild endure, I say. (I also say that until we know how to relate skilfully to the inner wild we won't be able to relate healthily to the outer. Unless we make this relationship conscious and engaged, its shadow will be fear and violence, to put it crudely and simplistically.)
And in thinking about all this, I remember my Pictish studies at university, and how fascinated I became with the symbols carved on Pictish stones, of which the boar, as above – totemic guardian of valour and courage and ferocity – was one. I also remember that the people of Orkney (where some of the Pictish sites are) were the People of the Boar.
|I don't know who took this photo. I found it on the British Wild Boar site – if anyone knows, tell me and I'll credit them.|
Saturday, 19 January 2013
I thought I'd explore it briefly* here, from my own sense of it, as conceptually I think it's a really important point, and experientially it can completely change our perception of our lives.
The point was no. 14:
'Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too (it still is), but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at it with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and selfless; where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.' (www.purposefairy.com)
From my perspective on attachment, influenced both by my long practice of Zen and my training in Jungian-based psychotherapy, what the author means is that as long as we are attached to things being a certain way, outcomes being as we desire them, people staying exactly as we need them to be for our comfort, situations unfolding according to our desires, we cannot be at peace or happy, as we are continuously trying to control stuff, events and people according to our 'small self', the ego, and hand-in-hand with that goes our clinging on in fear that things will go in unwanted directions and we won't be able to cope.
This is a way of being constricted and driven by fear. That's not to say we can't have desires and needs, obviously, but as long as we hang on to them as ultimate truths and must-haves rather than letting things, situations and people be as they are we cannot be free.
Life IS change; we can do nothing about that. Everything is also transitory. If we accept this and get off our own backs, and the backs of those whom we love, we can all have happier lives. We might as well roll with it. (I'm not advocating taking a quietist disengaged approach to eg social and political change, by the way; just suggesting we don't invest ourselves quite as much in having to have it all turn out in the way we think it should. We do our best and we let it go. That's the theory!)
Zen – well, Buddhism in general – suggests that two things that keep us living 'small' and unhappy are our attachments, and our aversions: the things/people/situations we feel we can't live without, and the things/people/situations we can't stand. Both of these buy into a dualistic notion of self and other as being entirely separate, and ignore the fact that everything is interconnected. On this wheel, life is a perpetual and frightening rollercoaster.
Another aspect is that we so identify ourselves with the ego, its desires and fears, that we can't step back long enough either as to see the bigger picture or to contact what we might call our 'higher Self' or 'higher nature', which is untroubled by transience and change in outer events.
Serenity comes from doing our best and then letting go. Acceptance, in other words.
I think also it's important to be clear about the difference between a kind of uncaring detachment, and a deep heartful awareness of non-attachment. There's been some confusion in translating some aspects of Eastern teachings for the Western culture and psyche, I think; and many people believe that the detachment of Buddhism is cold and disengaged.
My understanding is that non-attachment is a different quality altogether: we are still engaged with, in love with, even, the cosmos and this world, its sentient beings and diversity of forms; we are just not thrown off balance all the time by identifying our ego as reality, and striving to control and direct everything and other people according to our emotional reactions. We realise the deep truth in knowing that the universe and other people are not here to meet our needs. And knowing that everything changes, we don't try and hang on to what we simply can't, that's all; or rather, we practise not holding on to everything!
And – of course it's much easier to know it intellectually than to actually practise it in our daily lives! Do I manage it? Rarely. (You ought to see the turbulence I fall into when faced with a biggish decision!)
Do I feel better – and am I kinder – in those situations where I have briefly managed to let go of how I think things should be and turn out? Without question.
* I suppose we all know by now that my 'briefly' isn't, in fact...
Friday, 18 January 2013
I'm also passionate about the aspects of my work that involve mediating others' experiences of wildish places, whether we see those as merely external or also internal. And important too to me is reminding people to really look, to really listen; and to listen as well to those quiet voices so often unheard.
One way of addressing these things is through rites-of-passage, and vision or wilderness quest work. Recently, my work, because of other demands, has moved away from this. I feel a huge tug back that way, incorporating trees, animals, birds and our relationship to the 'out there' and the 'in here', all through the lens of ecopsychospirituality (what a mouthful) into this work more overtly.
Several times lately I've had a flashback to work I did in the 90s. In my book Writing the Bright Moment, I used my own experiences during a vision quest from the 90s as a starting point for talking about solitude, land and writing. I thought I'd posted this before on my blog, but I can't find it; so here it is (maybe again!).
Almost every day towards dusk I am aware, now, since that quest, of the little pre-roosting ritual flurry that members of the corvine tribe, in this case rooks and jackdaws, do together en masse, circling and cawing enthusiastically. This, each dusk, is for me without fail a 'bright moment'; a ritual that reminds me we are never really alone, and that the world keeps turning.
The Still Small Voices
‘There's an enormous energy loose in the world and it passes through all of us. And some people who end up being writers or photographers or painters try to shape that energy through the techniques they have mastered or apprenticed themselves to. And make out of that energy a story. And so they stay attuned in their lives to that movement of energy through them. And for most artists that attunement requires some degree of solitariness – either in the reception or the creation...’
This chapter is actually about being alone – something that is not really culturally sanctioned in the West. Many of us have issues about it, too: it seems selfish, or weird, or an admission of social failure; or involves ‘rejecting’ another person; or maybe we’re scared of it. We have so little time for solitude, so few places where we can go to really be alone, to fast from people and stimuli. Culturally there is no structure for this kind of experience, though in the past of our own and the present of some other cultures, there has been the mechanism of ‘vision’ or ‘wilderness quest’ as a way of being still, looking for answers and/or healing, and marking a rite-of-passage; and then there was the original ‘quarantine’: an almost unthinkably strenuous period, to our contemporary minds, of forty days alone.
But how else, without this time alone, will we listen to the ‘still small voices’?
And the truth is, no matter how we attempt to fill the void, avoid the question or cram our minutes full, we are all, ultimately, alone. We come into this world alone and we leave it, too, on our own. This is the truth of it. This is of course not to deny friendship, intimacy, deep connection; nor to dismiss religious and philosophical traditions – not to mention the new paradigms thrown up by sciences such as quantum physics and chaos theory – which remind us that an equally valid truth is that we are all interconnected.
So we are solitary and we are also each part of a greater whole. We have an effect on the world around us, as it has an effect on us.
But the fact of our fundamental solitude is not something over which we have any power; there is no choice. The poet Rilke talks about this: ‘We are solitary. We may delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. That is all. But how much better it is to realize that we are so, yes, even to begin by assuming it. Naturally we will turn giddy.’
I guess the reason for my addressing this is obvious – writers have to spend large periods of time in self-imposed solitary confinement. No choice about that, either. I wonder whether sometimes when we say we ‘don’t have time’ to write, we are actually afraid of the solitude?
It’s a very wet March day on Dartmoor. There’s a force 9 gale haranguing the trees; everything looks sodden and winter-black. I have my waterproofs and a rucksack, in which is my sleeping bag, minimal shelter (the flysheet for a tent and its poles – rickety, to put it mildly), some water, a notebook and pen, and an emergency stash of dried fruit and nuts. I have no book, no mobile phone (and besides there would be no signal) and no ‘proper’ food. I’m walking into a wild-ish patch of woodland under one of the tors; beside me is my friend and guide Jeremy Thres.
I’m about to enter a short period of fasting – from food, words, people and my normal distractions, like phone, books and music – time alone in the ‘wilderness’. Jeremy and I have spent some time preparing, and we will spend this day together at ‘base camp’, too. After that I’ll go off a little way on my own, and my agreement will be to be there on my own for thirty-six hours. There will be a day of re-acclimatising afterwards.
In the general run of things thirty-six hours is nothing for a wilderness, or vision, quest. Usually the time out alone, fasting, is a minimum of three days, often longer (and I was ‘allowed’ more shelter – the flysheet – than the usual basic tarp). Later, when I co-lead a quest with Jeremy, the whole thing will take a week: two days to prepare, three days out, two days to ‘come back to the world’; and the participants will go farther from base camp than I, coward that I’m being, choose to.
The point of it all of course is mindfulness: the unadulterated meeting with World; and the meeting with our selves, without the usual distractions with which we fill up our lives, and therefore avoid meeting life face-to-face. It’s a time to let all the little voices – normally rushed away before we can catch them, like leaves on a river - have their say.
I’m used to relatively untamed and/or remote places, having grown up in rural coastal Devon and spent almost all of my adult life living on or near Dartmoor, as well as having spent quite a lot of time in my early twenties in the high Pyrenees, on the border between France and Spain. I spend a lot of my time, on a regular/daily basis, walking alone with the dogs. When I travel, as I do for my courses, I have also always tended to be in wild-ish places, such as the Hebridean islands. I really love solitude, especially outdoors; it’s also when I am at my most calm and my most creative. Solutions, ideas and inspiration all arise during my time outdoors. I’m also very interested in natural history, in animal, bird and plant habits and habitats. And in my habitual adult life, I don’t get anything like enough ‘free’ time to do what I love – time to think, and to be, and to hang out in wild places.
So of course I was looking forward to it; and not really expecting any deep fears to arise. I have, after all, I think, spent a lot of time ‘looking at my stuff’, as they say.
The first few hours were great. I had been relishing the prospect of no interruptions: no phone, no work, no chores.
I wandered a bit. I sat on a wet and mossy rock and thought. I wandered a bit more. I got out my notebook.
I tried not to think.
I wished I had a book.
I wished I had a dog.
I wished the sun would come out.
I sat a bit more.
I put my now-damp entirely-word-free notebook away.
I wished I could hear more birds – there seemed an unhealthy absence of bird-life.
I resented the mud and the rain and the ragged grey sky.
I heard my own voice talking.
I wondered about the current reports of another Black Beast of Dartmoor – a puma-like creature roaming the uplands of the moor, apparently spotted on a number of occasions not too far from where I was. I wondered how timid they were. I wondered how close they would come to humans. I remembered a recent case in the States of a woman jogger mauled and killed close to a town by a wild puma.
A fire. That’s what I needed, a fire. But there was no hope of dry tinder, and I wasn’t supposed to be drawing attention to myself anyway.
I was wet and cold.
I was – already! – tired of the inside of my own head.
I couldn’t hear any ‘still small voices’ for the drumming of my own rampaging fears.
Well, it was a tough thirty-six hours, when I faced my own fears of boredom – I, who longed, in a very full life, to be able to experience the space to be bored! I experienced the fear of meaninglessness; and of oblivion. I thought about mortality and immortality. I felt frightened by both.
I realised for the first time how much I use the stimulus of reading and music, for instance, as a way of not being still and utterly alone with myself – and the world as it is, and the Void.
Then two little things happened to break the surge of panic and desolation I was feeling. One was my noticing how, just as the light was ebbing at dusk, the rooks and jackdaws somewhere on the verges of the wood all took to the wind cawing and clacking in a wild mingled swooping flypast, before finally settling. Somehow that lifted my spirits, took me out of my spinning head and dropped me firmly into the life of this particular wood at this particular moment; made me smile. Then, at dawn, after a damp, headachy and very restless night of almost no sleep and fleeting but disturbing dreams when I did manage to doze, I opened my eyes into more rain and wind – and somewhere close by thrush-song. Back into the moment, and a tuning-in to the waking sounds of the wood, the smell of sodden peaty soil, the spikes of bluebell shoots.
And now I could and did write – about my observations of my immediate environment, and then about my fears, and about what they triggered: about my realisations to do with the very real and basic fact of our aloneness; about my own spectres of loneliness and boredom.
Suddenly then too I realised how short my time out there alone really was, where yesterday it had seemed painfully endless; and of course by extension how short all our time ‘here’ really is.
There’s nothing like the shock of realising how you’re ‘wasting’ something as precious as unstructured time in a life that is continuously overfull and unrestful to focus your mind. Still small voices? Boy, did I start listening. And the rest of my very short period of time out there on the moor proved to be extraordinarily fruitful as an extremely intense spell of total immersion in everything around me; to the extent where, for a brief spell – and I use that word deliberately – I lost awareness of myself as a being separate from the rest of the universe. And, several years on, the small amount of writing I did during that time, and the awareness I brought back from it, is still influencing my life.
So, times like this morning when I hear the song thrush start up at 6.45 from the copper beech tree near my window, I’m jolted back into that time, and then into giving my full attention to listening, just listening, for a few minutes.
Thursday, 17 January 2013
This is a blogpost that's been shared on the internet now many 1000s of times. It's not mine, but comes from Dana at www.purposefairy.com
Can't we all do with these reminders? Interesting which ones 'stick' – oh yes, I recognise at least two which are very much alive for me still, despite decades of personal inner work on this stuff!
Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress-free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:
1. Give up your need to always be right. There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: 'Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?' Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?
2. Give up your need for control. Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, co-workers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.
'By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go.' Lao Tzu
3. Give up on blame. Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk. Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
'The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.' Eckhart Tolle
5. Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
'A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind.' Elly Roselle
6. Give up complaining. Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
7. Give up the luxury of criticism. Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different from you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.
8. Give up your need to impress others. Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
9. Give up your resistance to change. Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
'Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.' Joseph Campbell
10. Give up labels. Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. 'The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.' Wayne Dyer
11. Give up on your fears. Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
'The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.' Franklin D. Roosevelt
12. Give up your excuses. Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.
13. Give up the past. I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
14. Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too (it still is), but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at it with time and practise. The moment you detach yourself from all things (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and selfless; where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.
15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations. Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need… and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.
Sunday, 13 January 2013
|tree altar - Beatrice Grundbacher|
Every year the willows in the brookside meadow blaze a brilliant deep orange red, and every year it takes me by surprise, this flash of exuberance when the land is sunk so deeply in winter; reminder that nothing lasts, not even gloom and (apparent) stasis.
There are primroses in the hedges. I was brought up in North Devon, on the coast, maybe 80 miles as the crow flies from where I live now, diametrically opposite in this big county; and we always reckoned that the primroses would be out for Mother's Day, in late March – happened to often coincide with my mum's birthday. I guess it's global warming that's bringing them on; can't help being delighted to see them though.
Last night, in the dusk, two tawny owls called over my head. At lunchtime yesterday, a yard away from the kitchen French doors into the courtyard, a young fox was sniffing around for birdseed. He or she was thin and bedraggled, and clearly hungry, despite the proliferation of rabbits up in the field and veg garden. I wonder if it's the same youngster I see sitting in her column of bright air in the field adjoining us sometimes?
It's sunny! Dog and I strolled a long stroll through meadows and hills. The last little bit of river mist was rolling in the coombes of the tightly-folded South Hams, and the buzzards were high, sometimes stacked in tiers like planes awaiting their call down to earth. The ash and the oak are both daring to swell into bud-becomings (yep I can feel myself wanting to use that fabulous phrase 'apical helispheres' yet again!). The fields are packed with gulls, rooks and jackdaws; I assume that the wet followed by a little warmth is bringing all the invertebrates to the surface.
In all the bad news – Mali, now – there is a little good news: Greenpeace has persuaded Levi's not to use hazardous chemicals in their clothing manufacturing processes. And the pod of whales trapped by ice off the Canadian coast has been freed.
These little moments of eternity, as Blake didn't say (but one of the romantic French poets did: Verlaine? Eluard? Prévert?). These are the primroses in the barren banks, and we need to cherish them. Our task is to live with one foot in the macro and one in the micro, knowing joy, knowing sorrow, and learning how to hold both – all – lightly.
Saturday, 12 January 2013
You can climb in its branches to the heavens; but first you need to climb down its ganglia of roots, into the Underworld heart of the dark earth with its dreams and memories, ancestors and becomings.
Every threshold is guarded. Here, on the descent, you do battle with your fears, your regrets, your unmet hopes and dreams, your past, your future, the ways in which you've messed up, been unkind, acted out of ignorance and thoughtlessness.
There will be a question for you.
You have to loosen your pride.
You have to let go of all you know.
You have perhaps already let go of your youthful innocence, your sense that your little life is a vast unending canvas that stretches to the stars.
And now, at last, you can ease your rucksack off your shoulders, and leave it here propped against the tree. In the realm of the Underworld you won't need all the things that seem so essential in the world between heaven and earth.
But you will need to sacrifice something in order to cross the threshold – perhaps that which is most precious to you. (And you'll have to do that again climbing back up before the ascent into light – but that's another story, and your most precious thing may not be the same thing as before.)
And then you can let go; in fact, there is nothing else you can do if you wish to find the Pearl Beyond All Price that is your own soul.
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