Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Sacredness of What Is

For everyone

Be gentle with yourself. We all turn against ourselves, sometimes. Be gentle and kind.

It is natural to be kind, and kindness is wild. Do not tame your wildness, your body’s animal wisdom. For it is there, in flesh, bone and blood that your cure (and much kindness and beauty and all kinds of joy) will be found. Lean in. Drop down. Embrace your sensuous self.

Consciousness — all of your perceptions, thoughts and feelings — is not found in your head, or merely through the window of your eyes. Consciousness is heart-mind, and gut-mind too. It is bone, blood-flow, and breath. It is skin and touch, dreams and emotions. It is the sacred dance of your whole bodymind with the sensuous world, of your holy biology with spirit.

We are taught to deny what is real, to distrust our very senses — taught to put ‘mind over matter’. But mind is in matter, and matter is animated by mind. Do not seperate what dances, tearing lover from beloved.

You are not alone, for you are a web of connections. Every cell in your body — human and nonhuman — knows you, and wants to be kind. The world outside your body’s (permeable) boundaries wants to know you, to connect and relate. All of it — inner and outer — can speak to you, show you the way, if you are willing to listen.

Do not clothe yourself in what you are not. We all wear masks, for fear of ourselves. No one should desire to play a role, or hide who they truly are. There is only one role for humans : to be human (and beyond that, earthlings), clothed in the beauty of a human body.

Your self is not a fixed entity, not a thing you can label, but a process, a constant evolution of life in human form. You move and grow and learn in order to get closer to being, to your unique gifts and purpose in this lifetime. Do not yearn for what you cannot be. Dream instead of what magic you can create, what beauty you can weave out from the ensouled flesh of your body to entwine with the world, an integral part of the tapestry of biology–geology–cosmology, and earth’s own dream of us.

Emotions are part of the ecology of human beings. They move us and teach us and urge us towards growth. So, you will find your self in anger — a powerful motion through emotion — as it leads you back to love ; and sorrow, that tender parent, cradles joy in her arms. You are held in an emotional landscape, alive and breathing, a being of ancestral blood and memory.

You are you, and perfectly imperfect, imperfectly perfect — the blessing given to all that lives.

When you strip away the distortions and illusions of (industrial) civilisation, what you will find is that little, perhaps nothing, is human-made. Instead, it is earth-made, earth-given. Earth our Mother, our home, our teacher and resting place.

Your body too is earth-made and -given, created with a purpose in mind. What we are is not destiny, a fate set in stone ; though it does shape who we are, and what we can do, and there is a rightness in that.

To be given life is to be given everything and nothing. Somewhere in-between, we make the best of it. We must jump, and hope to grow wings.

There is nothing wrong with you — but there is something wrong with the distorted culture we live in — and that is what breeds our wrongness, wraps it up in our flesh as we grow. Our bodies rebel — naturally, because they are wild — for they cannot abide what is unnatural, untrue and unneeded. So, they get sick, depressed, anxious, turn hatred and anger inwards, because they only wish to be what they are. No more, no less. 

It is the distorted culture (not human beings) that needs to change, to be destroyed and then regrown from the roots. Only then, when rightness and naturalness is bred into us, will we be be able to truly heal.

In the meantime, you will be given what you need, and it will be enough. But first you must learn to accept it : trust in your worthiness to receive yourself from life. You will be yours, and home at last.

Your self is not your suffering. That suffering is a teacher, if you pay it heed. It is not you who is wrong, but the distorted world and its illusions. That world lies ; but the Real always speaks true.

Reality precedes any thoughts or feelings we might have about it. Biology precedes any social or cultural ideas or artefacts we might impose upon it. The earth, and the natural way of things, does not make us suffer ; we (that is, the distorted culture) create our own suffering by not living according to the rules of the earth, which are ultimately kind, and beautiful beyond understanding. 

It is in what is — the Real — that you will find comfort : in your heart that beats to a rhythm that has sung in the veins of life for millennia : in your breath that, with each inhalation, fills you with the soul of the universe : in your unique face that can show so much of who you are, if you let it.

It is hard to love yourself in a world that teaches you to hate yourself instead ; and it is wrong and unkind for that self-love to be expected of anyone, for that notion turns all of us into unwilling victims, thinking ourselves unworthy of love because we struggle to love ourselves. The truth is that we are already loved — by the mothers who birthed us, and the earth who made us, and many, many others (past, present and future). Lie back in that comfort. There is nothing for you to do but live and love where you can, and then that life and love will come back to you.

It is hard — oh-so-hard — to be human. But there is a radical map, of roots and tendrils, pulsing veins and neural pathways, which can show you the way. It will lead you down into the bowels of yourself, earth-bound and star-infused, to show you the light in the dark. The map can only be found in what is, the real beneath all that we think we know — the biological–geological–cosmological whole — spirit’s vessel.

Let what is be your guide. Step up the ladder of your ribs and embrace your heart. Lay down to sleep in the cradle of your pelvis. Stand tall upon the trusted soles of your feet. Bend toward the centre from which you radiate, and be : like a tree, a bird, a river rushing towards the arms of the sea. Dwell with and within yourself, sheathed with life.

All will be well if you learn to read the map, to follow it into life. Nature knows where you need to go — and it is not towards capture, but towards liberation. Back to the wild.

Perhaps I will meet you there.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Wise Words: The Body is in the Soul

For [French mystical philosopher, Henry] Corbin, the Otherworld is a pre-condition of our own world, meaning that our world would not exist without it. The Otherworld thus encompasses our reality rather than being situated by it. He explains this difficult concept by using the following analogy. Although we commonly consider our spirit to be situated within our body or brain during its incarnation, an assumption forced upon us by Descartes’ separation of the mind from the body (and the natural world), the converse is actually true. The body is encompassed by the spirit. Furthermore, imagination, which has the ability to connect with and move between the two worlds, encompasses our psychological and cognitive functions. We are therefore embraced and held by a world of magic which appears to us in visions, dreams and symbols yet it is a world to which we have become increasingly blind and mute. 

(Sinead Spearing, Wiccecræft: Shamanic Magic from The Dark Ages, Green Magic: Stathe, Somerset, 2011, p. 4)

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Wings are a Constraint: The Gift of Limitations

We live in a world in which it has come to be generally believed that we can be, do and have whatever we want—if we put our minds to it, try hard enough, and/or buy all the right products. Yet in this hyper-individualistic culture we have become so self-obsessed that we no longer see the bigger picture, the wider view of the earth community that we are situated within, and the destructive effects our unhealthily self-absorbed perspective is wreaking.

The truth is that there are limitations on who we can be, what we can do, and what we can have. Nature places limits on how we can (and should) live, which we are meant to (though typically do not) defer to. Our bodies, and the circumstances we are born into and that form our lives are also natural and necessary constraints. This doesn’t mean that we don’t contain great potentials and possibilities within us; nor does it mean we should ignore the injustices and oppressions that form unnatural constraints on our lives and the lives of others (those limits should certainly be destroyed). 

But what it does mean, I think, is that we find who we are, and our place and purpose in the world, in the fertile space between our potential and our limitations. As poet, typographer and translator Robert Bringhurst has said:

Wings are a constraint that makes it possible to fly. (1)

Brown falcon
We cannot be who we want to be—only who we are. Or in other words, who we are is constrained—though not wholly defined—by what we are. Or in yet another way, what we are precedes and affects who we are. 

Nonhumans don’t seem to have much trouble with this: a banksia tree cannot be anything other than itself, a being of banksia-ness; a magpie cannot help but sing as magpies do (though perhaps this is changing, because of all the damage humans have, and are, doing to the natural world.) Yet, for us human beings, being ourselves—when we have lost so many of the cultural tools which taught us how to achieve this—is often the hardest thing.

Un-centring our thoughts, becoming less self-focused, and accepting the constraints we have been gifted with (yes, gifted!), are, I believe, crucial to this process. We are not atomised individuals, but exist within a web of interrelations and dynamic processes. We are all constrained and full of potential, all of us navigating the path of our particular lives, which intertwines and intersects with the lives of others. Thus, we must tread gently, considerately, in the life-dance with the humans and nonhumans around us, and with the land we live on.

Flowering Old Man Banksia, Banksia serrata
We cannot have everything that we want, though we will probably receive what we need; nor can we do whatever we want, though most of us are able to do what is enough. Likewise, who we are is far more important and full of meaning than who we might like to be.

I am aware that this is not a popular idea. Most people want to overcome limitations, to smash through them, to boldly declare that there are no limits at all to what humans can achieve or what we can become (take, for instance, the recent talk of creating colonies on Mars or the moon—ridiculous and arrogant proposals that are not grounded in respect for the earth, or even physical possibility). But I am not interested in popularity, only in the truth, the Real, the beautiful constraints of what is

The fact that we are in danger of destroying the biosphere that creates and sustains all life, is proof that we have been arrogantly disregarding nature’s limitations, as well as our own—focusing on wants, rather than needs; on having, rather than being or experiencing; and on trying to create false selves, rather than finding out who we really are. It is time we were more humble, more thoughtful about how we conduct ourselves as humans. There are limits, and they must be respected. 

In his poem ‘Finch’, Bringhurst writes of the many birds who visit the bowl of birdseed in his garden:

They speak of what they are, not who 
they do or do not wish to be. 
That is a form of moral beauty … (2)

This is true. To become fully ourselves, and to live in connection and relationship with the earth, is what we are here to do, and it is both a form of moral beauty and a moral imperative. Yet, the existence of limitations should not discourage us, for between constraint and possibility, is where we can fly.

1. Robert Bringhurst, ‘Prosodies of Meaning: Literary Form in Native North America’, in The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology, Counterpoint: Berkeley, 2006, 2008, p. 208
2. Robert Bringhurst, Selected Poems, Jonathan Cape: London, 2010, p. 135

King parrot

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Wise Words: Defenders of Reality

We have the kind of economy we have, and we do the kind of science that we do, for all kinds of reasons, including those of history. But the main reason in the end is that we just don’t care enough. We do not get angry enough when we see animals, or indeed people, treated badly, or when forest is swept aside. Those who do protest are commonly derided as ‘greenies’. They are perceived to be in the way of economic progress, and so to be ‘unrealistic’. Yet they are the defenders of reality: the real realities of landscapes and of living creatures. It’s the present economy, that recognizes no limits to financial growth that is unrealistic. 

(Colin Tudge, The Secret Life of Birds: Who They Are and What They Do. Penguin: London, 2008, pp. 449–450)


Our economic models are projections and arrows when they should be circles. To define perpetual growth on a finite planet as the sole measure of economic well-being is to engage in a form of slow collective suicide. To deny or exclude from the calculus of governance and economy the costs of violating the biological support systems of life is the logic of delusion.

(Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, UWA Publishing: Crawley, Western Australia, 2009, p. 217)

Friday, 5 January 2018

Wise Words: A Precious Gem

I am an avid collector of quotes—any gems of wisdom I find in my literary travels that inspire, inform, and assist me to make sense of my own thoughts.

So many books and writers have influenced me in profound ways over the last several years, challenging me, and leading me forward into a better understanding of myself and the world. I would love to be able to write about their wise words, to elucidate what they have written in my own way (and sometimes I will), yet I lack the energy to be able to do that most of the time. 

Thus, as I still want to be able to share their wisdom with you, and to spread it far and wide, I thought I would make it a goal for this year to post a quote each week that I think is particularly important. Some will be about creativity, some about spirituality or feminism, and many will be related to nature, ecology and so forth. They will, I hope, be radical and beautiful and full of love, joy and resistance.

In a roundabout way, these quotes will tell you more about who I am and what I believe. I hope they will also challenge and inspire you.
Since I have been reading the poetry of Robert Bringhurst recently, I thought that this little poem, a particularly precious gem, would be a good place to start. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Radical Beginnings: In Nature, at the Roots

I have to begin where everything begins, in the blindness and in the shadows. I have to begin the story of women’s development where all things begin: in nature, at the roots. It is necessary to return to the origin of confusion, which is woman’s struggle to understand her own nature.
—from the prologue to the first edition of Ladders to Fire, by Anaïs Nin

I’ve long had an interest in the roots of things, so this quote from Anaïs Nin speaks to me. 

In nature, at the roots, where darkness dwells, fecund with seeds of possibility, is, I think, the best place for new, and radical, beginnings.

Radical: origin: late Middle English (in the senses ‘forming the root’ and ‘inherent’): from late Latin radicalis, from Latin radix, radic- ‘root’

I am so looking forward to the possibilities of this year. 

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