Title Image

Author: Ingrid Hoffman

The Boy In The Bubble

A straightjacket of hopelessness immobilised me this morning. In the inbox: A link to an article in the Irish Times by environmental commentator, John Gibbons.  One of the many  canary in the coal mine articles, one of the many voices raised in alarm at the rapid climate change that will certainly culminate in a new world.  John Gibbons quotes Professor Peter Wadhams of the Polar Ocean Physics Group stating that the Arctic summer sea ice will turn to slush in three to four years.

Like a repetitive drum-roll, we’ve heard the apocalyptic refrain before. As ancient glaciers disappear, polar bears drown, rivers run dry and dust bowls fill deforested wastelands, impotent politicians sit around conference tables in expensive hotels, unwilling or unable to do what  needs to be done. Not everyone agrees that global warming, extreme weather, mass extinctions, or a shrinking ice caps are “bad” things. Says John Gibbons, “one person’s global catastrophe is another’s commercial opportunity. Governments and energy companies, notably Shell, are busy jostling to be in position to loot the oil and minerals hidden beneath the region’s fast-disappearing ice. This is akin to setting your house on fire to keep yourself warm.”

So, like the Little Match Girl, we light our matches: We add our protest to an Avaaz.org petition. We plant a tree, walk to work, sell the car, buy a bike, install solar panels and eat organic. We do what we can as concerned citizens, walking through the ethically “correct” minefield littered with plastic bags versus jute.  Perhaps we must  question our motives. Be  wary of a fear-based resonance that vibrates in the belief that the world is sick and dying, or a need to feel pure, worthy or good. Polarised thinking is tinder for the bonfires of war.  By staying stuck in the Pain Body we are part of the problem. By projecting our disowned parts, our shadow onto governments, industrialists, Shell, or the dying polar bears, we cling to fear-based thinking. Writes spiritual teacher Gill Edwards “if your vibrations hover around self-righteousness you are in fear-mode, so you tend to push against the negative, instead of reaching towards what is positive.”  Perhaps this is just another great evolutionary mass extinction?  Just part of the great cycle of death and re-birth? “Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made,” says writer Cormac McCarthy.

And yet, amidst all the thousands of scientific reports, government papers, dire warnings by climatologists, no-one even dares whisper the obvious: We are breeding like bacteria in a warm Petri dish. Now there are an estimated 7.042 billion people on this good earth, according to the United States Census Bureau. With projected growth rates, the  world population is expected to reach between 7.5 and 10.5 billion by 2050. Does it really have to be an extreme solution to an extreme problem? Does it have to be Sophie’s excruciating Choice:  Genocide or mass sterilisation? Then who must die and who must be sterilised? And who will make this dreadful decision?  “So I’ll continue to continue to pretend my life will never end, and flowers never bend with the rainfall,” sang Simon and Garfunkel prophetically. Perhaps like rabbits immobilised in the lights of the oncoming car, we do nothing.  Perhaps our only hope is our state of consciousness.

As we shift more into an energy that is coherent with our soul song, as we open our hearts to love, to compassion, to gratitude, we will expand our awareness; perhaps only then we will know that we are all part of the Whole. We’re all in this together. The birds, the bees, the great leviathans, the polar bears – and us, wearing our clumsy, hob-nailed boots.“Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting” says writer Cormac McCarthy. “These are the days of miracle and wonder and don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry…”

Art by Pat Rawlings.

Paul Simon’s Boy In The Bubble.

John Gibbons is an environmental writer and commentator

Songwriters: SIMON, PAUL / MOTLHOHELOA, FORERE

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky…

 

3

Whisper a prayer to the moon

Our creativity is the full expression of Who we are. It unfurls, like the rainbow-coloured tail of a kite on a windy day. It arcs through the clear blue skies of our imagination. It soars to distant galaxies. It whispers a prayer to the Moon.

Yet so many of us give up on ourselves so easily. Our inner critic curls her lips and whispers, “what a stupid idea” when we believe six impossible things before breakfast. As we hop-skip along the stanzas of a poem and turn cartwheels across the notes of a melody, we stop, suddenly, foolish.  Then she says a little more sternly, “and just who do you think you are?” Awkward. Self-conscious, we judge and condemn ourselves to a life behind the bars of our meticulously constructed prison cells. Perhaps we blame the gaoler husband. Perhaps it is the ailing parent, the needy child, the punishing work schedule that keeps us securely padlocked, safe from our spontaneity, our joy. Pablo Picasso once said that “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  Jung spoke of the “Divine Child” archetype, “the child is that which brings the light into the darkness and carries the light before it.”  Emmet Fox mentioned “The Wonder Child” – the true self, the Child that lives within each one of us that beckons us to spiritual regeneration. The Wonder Child archetype represents our soul’s yearning for trans-formation.  It manifests as the sense of wonder, the awe that we feel when we look upon something greater than ourselves. The magic of believing, with unwavering certainty that miracles do happen. That everything will be alright in the end. It manifests in our delight as we follow a silvery snail trail that meanders across a dewy lawn to the fairy toadstools at the bottom of the garden; when we gaze in awe at the Milky Way. For so many of us The Wonder Child is an infant in exile, banished from our adult lives. Says Marion Woodman “As long as we are determined to move at our swift, logical pace, our child remains hidden. The soul-bird put away in a dark box in childhood needs time, needs silence to learn to trust again.”  In the clatter of our over-scheduled lives, we fear our little soul-bird’s joyful song; we shy from the exuberance of our scarlet creativity.

The 17th century heralded a new evolutionary blooming on the World Tree. In the West, the Age of Reason – the Age of Rationalism – ushered in a philosophy that snuffed out the belief in miracles and wonder; relegated the “unseen” and the “mysterious” to the slag heap. The “irrational” was feared, trivialised, disowned. Science became the new religion. For almost 500 years, The Wonder Child lived and played with  musicians, performers, poets, and painters. He lived in myths and fairy tales – the hero, the baby in the manager, The Little Prince. Collectively, we internalised the concept of the suffering artist. The creative person who carried the success and the failure of his or her own endeavours utterly alone. This heavy burden  crushed the creative life force from those who embody The Muse.  Keats, Byron, Plath, Jonker, Joplin, Winehouse … crumpled wings, broken bodies piled high upon the funeral pyre of creative genius.

Is this a symptom of the hubris that lifts us on feather and wax wings that melt as we fly too close to the Sun? Do we carry the Collective Wonder Child on our shoulders, stagger under the weight of our divine burden? Must we, like the wretched Eve, be condemned by a misogynistic psychopath god who proclaims spitefully, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth.” Must we perish as we give birth to our creative progeny?

Carl Rogers and a team of psychologists made a study of the dynamics of creativity. The consensus would certainly not surprise a pre-schooler: the necessary ingredients were playfulness, spontaneity, the ability to be present, to live in the now, the ability to focus, a sense of wonder and the capacity to be one’s own “locus” of evaluation – to delight in what you have made. A tough call for the fragile psyche to straddle the magical, imaginal realm and the insatiable demands of a material world where we are only as good as our last offering on the altar of creativity. We speak of creative blocks. Resting actors. We silence the baying voices in our own heads with narcotics, alcohol. We open the door of the gas oven. To be playful, spontaneous, present, focused. To delight in what we have produced. A tough call when the rent is due and we must chop wood carry water. Not always easy when our teenager stays out all night drinking, when our father is ailing. Not always easy when we move through the lunar cycles of our relationships.

The ancient Greeks had Nine Muses, each one a chthonic divinity who bestowed in-spiration upon mere mortals – poetry, art, music, astronomy, and writing. The ancient Romans called upon The Genius. Author Elizabeth Gilbert proposes that we do not have to internalise the Muse. We do not have to live anxious, tortured lives. We do not need to self-destruct as we race after our Wonder Child.  If, like the Greeks and Romans, we allow the anthropomorphic goddesses to bring us inspiration– from afar – we can remain mortals, not custodians, not neurotic wanna-be gods or goddesses. Not Wonder Children – 24-7.

To restore the Natural Order, these magical divinities must remain in their sacred groves. They must dwell at the crystal clear springs of prophecy. They must inhabit the walls of our work places. They may inspire us from afar. All we must do is show up when they call.

Says Elizabeth Gilbert, “Just do your job. Do your dance. If you glimpse some kind of wonderment just for a few moments… ‘Ole!’ to you, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”

Art by Kay Nielson. Out flew the Moon.

Eleanor McEvoy – Whisper a Prayer to the Moon.

My darling, my darling

So crazy, so charming

It’s just that it happened too soon

But I send you my wishes

My hugs and my kisses

And whisper a prayer to the moon

 

 

4

A Mirror Without A Face

I did not recognise her at first. An effigy. A wax-work-woman. Skin taut, lips swollen, blue eyes slanted like Tretchikoff’s Lady from Orient. “I’ve just  had it all lifted. And derma abrasion,” she mouthed through grotesquely swollen lips. “My 14-year-old son didn’t want to be seen with a wrinkly mummy!” A tight, unconvincing laugh came from the hollowness within. The sadism of the narcissist in her vain attempts at marble-like self preservation. A caricature of the eternally youthful Aphrodite, a middle-aged woman lost in a hall of mirrors. Like so many of us, unaware of the beauty of her true face.

We talk glibly about someone being “a narcissist.” We usually take that as meaning he or she is utterly self-absorbed, isolated in her own human subjectivity. For me, myths and fairy tales are repositories of wisdom. These age-old stories carry the unperturbed truths that ripple through our lives today. They teach us that nothing has changed, nothing is “trending”. And that all our neurosis is just a minute piece in the large tapestry of evolution and transformation. The story of Narcissus contains rich food for the hungry soul: Long long ago the concerned mother of an extremely beautiful young boy asked the blind prophet Tiresias “will he live to an old age?” to which wise Tiresias replied, “as long as he does not know himself.” So she hid all the mirrors in their home and Narcissus grew up to be extraordinarily handsome, loved and adored by all who met him. Because he had never seen his own face, he had to depend on the reactions of others to tell him how beautiful and desirable he was, so that he could feel confident.

A narcissist does not truly love herself. In her self-absorbed flaunting, in her exaggeration, her brash insistence on her individuality, she seems to want to stand apart in her desperate need to be seen, to be adored. Says Rilke, “though the reflection in the pool often swims before our eyes: know the image. Only in the dual realm do voices become eternal and mild.”   

We live in a narcissistic world. We shout, “See me!” from the illusive realm of social networking sites. They have a fluid, dreamy quality which is a powerful mirror for our own narcissism – what we present is often an illusion of success, beauty, happiness. In reality, we so often erect boundaries to our loving, hold back our giving. We present faces to the world that are mere masks, covering the  hollowness inside.

The story of the beautiful youth, Narcissus, is a tale of self-absorption, spurned lovers, arid intellectualism without conversation with the moist wetness of our soul. The 2010 documentary, Catfish, depicts the same age-old allegory of deception and artifice that covers the painful void of self-love and stunted life force. The film portrays a romantic relationship between Ariel and Angela who “click” on Face book.

Like so many of us, Angela and Ariel feel the pain of narcissistic wounding and as they dismantle the artifice they have set up and maintained with such dedication, they discover that by failing in fantasy, they have recognised themselves. The documentary reveals the “faces” we present, the pretty plumage we display, so that we may see ourselves reflected in the mirror of approval. We are mesmerized by what we see, yet the self-love and self-acceptance we crave cannot be found outside ourselves. It lies cradled in an introverted place. The process of trans-formation can begin only when we know ourselves, when we ground ourselves in humility. As the desirable “I” crumbles and we are consumed by the fire of authentic self-love, we melt the wax work image and allow our soul to soar out of rigid self-absorption. As Angela and Ariel unmask and begin to know themselves, they, like Narcissus, realise that they have become stuck, on the familiar images – the surface identity, the isolated face we present to the world. They discover that beneath the impenetrable  membrane of narcissism, lives a deep soul in its luminous unfolding, in its infinite potential.

John Bradshaw writes, “Adult children, having long ago buried their authentic selves and lost their sense of I AM ness, cannot give themselves to their partners because they don’t have a self to give.,”  We are conditioned, admonished “not to get big headed”, or “ahead of ourselves”. We are asked “who do we think we are?” Exiled from ourselves, we present our smiling faces, our happy lives to the world, and no-one ever knows the depth of our aloneness and our suffering. “We mistake so much for love – neediness, dependence, mere familiarity. And in reaching out for love, we vanish into projections of who we should be, and how our lives should appear. One day, we wake to face a stranger in the looking-glass – and know that we abandoned ourselves long ago. The before it is too late, we must find our way home – and learn the true meaning of Love” says Gill Edwards.

Only by self-discovery, only by differentiating, only by seeing the otherness in this “dual realm” can we see our true self in the fragile beauty of the little flower of our soul whose roots are deep and whose beauty is grounded in the earth, in the eternal cycles of nature.

Artist: Chen Hongqing. Girl Looking into the Mirror

Royal Wood – A Mirror Without a Face

I keep on running from the buildings tall
The buildings tall surround
Like in a circus oh a circus tent
A circus tent I’m a clown

What good’s a mirror without a face
Without a face

 

 

4

Only A Woman’s Heart

There’s a virgin’s innocence in the blush of new love. It is a many  splendoured thing. It arrives, flying on bright-feathered wings to lift us off our feet of clay. In  love, we become gods and goddesses. Our days sprinkled with stardust, our nights with butter-yellow sunbeams, our domesticated lives quite suddenly unleashed.

Erotic love is eternally young and naive. It ruffles our hair, heightens our intuition, ignites our creative impulse and supplies life-giving blood to our anaemic imagination. The ancient Greeks depicted Eros as an eternal youth.  This is a love that is playful, unbounded. It stirs, it shakes, it rattles at the windowpanes, then bellows through our hearts on a big wind. In this expansive energy, we stretch our own soul-wings and feel the tender bud of our own blossoming potential.

This kind of love recognises no boundaries, no barriers in time and space. We may fall into love during the dappled springtime or the monochrome winter of our lives. It is our soul’s initiation into the realm of Infinite possibility. Elif Shafak’s beautiful book, “The Forty Rules of Love” is a paean to the power of love that transports, transcends, defies all reason and codes of conduct. So often, there is fatedness about two souls joining, reuniting, at a certain place, in a certain time, to experience the bliss of their Belonging. Great love stories immortalise love in all its manifestations – the madness, the melancholy, the deception, the heroism and the sublime healing. So often the mystery and grandeur of love’s experience meets the cold unyielding concrete walls of practicality or the finality of death. Our souls inevitably lead us across barren wastelands, or snare us in thorny brambles of subterfuge and prickly complexity.  Without the luscious juiciness of erotic Love, our soul’s thirst is fleetingly quenched by love stories in books and movies. Its gossamer wings stretch towards the warmth of a love song that reverberates in the furnace of our knowing. We encounter love in the transcendent realm of our dreams. Love swirls us in fantasy, pricks our hardened hearts with thorns of sadness for what was, what might have been.

Some of us dare to dive deep only once in a lifetime. Some 0f us swaddle tightly in layers of protective clothing. Stay well away from such foolish messy things. We are too busy, too old and too fussy to believe in such folly ever again. So we  remain, ghostly spectators on the mossy river banks, not daring to dip a even a toe into the swirling waters. Wearing our wetsuits of past experience that say “too risky… or it will never last…”

We choose to live low wattage light bulb lives, silently moving through the motions of our lives, barely casting a shadow, leaving a foot print.  “There is life without love, “says Mary Oliver. “ It is not worth a bent penny. Or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a dead dog nine days unburied.” She  admonishes her reader to grab their courage, and “ row, row, row, for your life toward it.”

The valour of Love stirred my heart in a beachfront restaurant on Sunday evening. A middle-aged couple strolled past my table: an ordinary looking man holding the hand of an ordinary looking woman.   Except that there was something transcendent, something magical about the way they moved.  In unison they seemed to glide across that floor. Slowly, they sank into their seats at a table facing towards mine, their backs away from the turquoise sweep of sea and sky. With soft eyes they gazed at one another. They loved what they saw. Heads thrown back, throats exposed, soft and vulnerable, they laughed deliciously, often, playfully. They savoured the sweetness of each word, each precious gesture. They hungered to know more as they leaned into each other. Languorously, they kissed, hungry tongues exploring, hands urgently caressing. Oblivious to the setting sun, oily oozing gold-vermillion on the shimmering waves. Unaware of the black-backed gulls swooping low over the kelp-strewn sand. They sat, enthroned King and Queen of Hearts in their timeless kingdom. The food they ordered, the bottle of wine, were incidental props at the High Table of their love. Their embodiment of love graced all our tables that day. Says Thomas Moore: “Our era’s preoccupation with mental hygiene encourages us to think of all forms of mania as disease…Plato’s divine madness is not pathological in our hygienic sense, but more an opening into eternity. It is a relief from the stringent limits of pragmatic, sanitised life. It is a door that opens out from human reason into divine mystery.”

Love weaves daisy-chains, lies in grassy meadows, staring at the dance of clouds. Its delicious languor stretches across time. And yet so often the clouds of fear darken the fierce flame of our Love. Our doubts gather ominously on the horizon.  As we scurry for shelter from our childlike innocence our contaminated thoughts become the words that fly like poisoned arrows from our lips to pierce the heart of our lover, lacerating our own lips. Conditional love breeds like bacteria in a festering wound of fear. It flourishes in a dualistic world where we seek approval, control and security, through our love relationships. Where we sow the poison seeds of destruction in our superficial relating or rigid roles, where we cling to one another in desiccated desperation. Self-growth is self-love. And yet so many of us do not know how to begin to love ourselves until we begin to unearth our buried longings, the playful, joyful passionate parts of our selves. If we are single, we can write out the “wish lists” and visualise our “soul mate”. Yet we will only meet the “right” person when we are the “right” person. If we love ourselves conditionally, if we tame our own desires with shoulds and musts and ifs … we shrink into drab, one-dimensional cartoon characters, separated from Source, from our own Divinity.

There is always one constant in all our relationships: ourselves.  When we are willing to make the quantum leap into a new paradigm of forgiveness, acceptance and gentleness; when we release the fear and shame that bolt the door and imprison us in our sense of separateness, our relationships will mirror our own unfolding spiritual journey. Love is a many-splendoured thing.  If we are willing to adventure with child-like innocence, and eyes wide open in wonder, it will find us just at the perfect time. And we will sparkle, so splendidly.

Eleanor Mc Evoy Only A Woman’s Heart

 

3

Reason to Believe

In early childhood, most of us put on the ill-fitting garments of our false selves. We adapt, adjust and wriggle into the scratchy expectations and admonishments of our care-givers and authority figures. We learn to deny the urgent straining of our souls to fill our true wholeness. Our true colours grow dull. We shrink smaller and smaller until only the tiniest chink of light shines through the scaly armour of words that mirror our thoughts. Out of our mouths tumble  “Not too bad”, or “I can’t complain…” or “over-worked and under-paid”… when we’re asked how we are doing. And so we unconsciously choose to cement in our psyches the negative self-talk that echoes across all our experiences.

Our lives today are embodiments of the words we chose to say yesterday. This might sound trite, glib, clichéd.  Like an old movie reel our beliefs flicker across the silver screen of our minds. Each one of us has  millions of thoughts from the moment we open our eyes and stretch into the new day. We can choose to think and then say it is a miserable day – or a cosy, wet day. We can choose to say we are surviving – or flourishing. Our words reverberate throughout the cells in our bodies, and like ancient pebbles cast upon the still silent waters of a dark lake, they send ripples out into distant galaxies. Our thoughts and words hamstring – or set us free.

So many of us pause hesitantly at the threshold of choice, bound by the bonds of our beliefs – the stories we tell ourselves: I’m not good enough, loveable enough, worthy… Like a pendulum, we swing between the what-ifs or the shoulds. Like Scarlett O’Hara, we procrastinate, postpone: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow…”

We generalise, use “master talk” and say things like “as all women know…” or “we all feel that …” We all do? Is this true for each one of us? Comatose, we seek the counsel of friends or “experts” who see the world through the prism of their own minds, the retinas of their own eyes.  Like sleep-walkers, we choose to listen to their words. To believe them.

The choreography of our lives is infinitely poetic.  We visit experiences that exile us from our homeland, wash us up on the cold shores of loneliness and suffering. We walk through the morass of despair. We will never know what it feels like to be courageous, passionate, reckless, irresponsible, if we don’t give a damn my dear. If we don’t leap, like The Fool, into the unknown and dance on talcum-white beaches, our laughing faces to the sun. Not look back, at least for a while. Ultimately we can all choose to believe that there are no “right” or “wrong” choices.  Each choice we make will lead us along a different, not always easier or better, way out of the cul-de-sac. Says Gary Zukav, “You cannot, and will not, encounter a circumstance, or a single moment, that does not serve directly and immediately the need of your soul to heal.” Research acknowledges what shamans and witches have known for eons. Our thoughts and images that flow from the deep ocean of our imagination have real physiological consequences for our bodies. Our brains often can’t distinguish whether we are imagining something or experiencing it in “real time”. Stories of heroines and heroes, gods and goddesses, warriors and queens are our stories – universal stories that frame our dark nights of suffering and loss, celebrate our courage and our will to re-emerge with our bundle of straw, spun into gold.

From the 12th century the word bileave took on a meaning which was more about holding something dear, having a sense of esteem or trust in something. This subtle nuance speaks eloquently about our personal values, and ultimately, how we value ourselves. So often we don’t value ourselves. Trust ourselves. Love ourselves enough to find a reason to believe. So often we shrug off our instinctual wisdom, or relegate it to the precarious roller coaster ride of “luck”, a “fluke” or “being in the right place at the right time”. So often we deny ourselves credit for the brilliantly courageous, self-loving choices we have made. So often we deny our victories, preferring to wear the thorny crown of blame.

The “trauma of life” model adopted by psychologists and counsellors where childhood wounding shapes our experience in adulthood is inherently flawed. The human spirit is tenacious, resilient. The astrological birth chart reflects the unbounded potential to move from basic ground and venture into new landscapes. Choice is a precious pearl to be treasured. We can alter the trajectory of our lives by choosing thoughts, cherishing our beliefs, trusting that we will manifest only those experiences that resonate with the quality of Light or energy we want to experience. We can choose to believe that we are wiser, stronger, more adventurous, far more abundant than we thought we were. We can image our lives as mythical, epic. If we dare to visualise our experiences with flair, seemingly random events take on a deeper, richer resonance. One way to give voice to our lives is a daily journal where we can catch the silvery strands of the dreams that take us across shadowy thresholds during the night; where we can capture the minutiae of our daily lives on paper, sift our thoughts, vent our frustrations, our pain and our longings. Bare the beauty of our hearts. Be the  poets of our own lives. Look to find a reason to believe.

Rod Steward Reason to Believe.

 

 


 

5

Back to Black

Fifty Shades of Grey… “Oh my! … Holy Cow! … Holy Fuck! Oh, crap…”

I am quarter-way through the book and  I can’t suck it up any more. Perhaps my psyche is not desensitised to what is euphemistically dubbed “mummy porn”. The banal clichés, the one-dimensional cardboard cut-out characters, the deeply disturbing objectification of the human body.

My impression after a very brief foray into the murky darkness was that this could be a clunky attempt at a Revenge Tragedy so popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean eras where the absolute corruption of power had gruesome and inhumane consequences. This could be a loss of innocence and a tale of redemption of two very wounded, self-absorbed characters, set against the steel and concrete urban landscape. I will never know.

What intrigues me is how this chunkily-written, best-selling trilogy taps into something that reverberates in the dark undertow of the collective consciousness. The puer fantasy so powerful in the West – especially the American psyche is certainly spelt out loud and crassly clear: youth worship, instant gratification, materialism, the stock-in-trade Mills and Boon template – Alpha Male meets virgin who succumbs to his brutish charm. What troubled me was this portrayal of a shadowy world where power is concretised into sordid fetish and where the stench of pain lingers like stale cigarette smoke.

 

The Vampire has come back to inhabit the new collective zeitgeist. The Vampire Archetype is certainly embodied in the lifeless personae of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey as they enact the ritualistic  dance – bondage, discipline, dominance, submission. Power – and the misuse of power. This age old motif was evident in the Harry Potter books, where the powerless became powerful, and where magic was used for good – and for ill. Victim turned Persecutor.

When our power is usurped or corrupted, we may stray into the mire where Victim and Persecutor enact their macabre dance of madness. The frequency of childhood abuse in psychopaths would suggest that the “sins of the fathers” are indeed visited upon future generations. Early humiliation and victimisation is often re-enacted. Not everybody who is subjected to corporal punishment, or abused cruelly as a child has psychopathic tendencies, though many of us carry these feelings inside us. When we feel powerless we must create the illusion of power in the most ruthless way. A psychologist friend of mine told me that she has an increase of young female clients who have read the book and now wish to experience bondage, submission – and emotional disconnection.

Satan appears in ever changing forms. There will always be willing souls who wander into the darkness, to dwell there, lifeless wraiths. Those who mistake pain for love, who give up their will or attempt to usurp the will of someone else, passively make a “pact with the devil”.   Apparently, Fifty Shades of Grey deals with great wealth, synonymous with power, as the dark side of human sexuality, the dark of the soul: the templum of the astrological 8th house. As above so below. The perfect design of the cosmos echoes these archetypal themes as Pluto (god of the Underworld) and Uranus (primordial sky god) to reveal what lies hidden beneath the lean veneer of equality and respect between men and women.

Like Mr Grey and Miss Steele, the outer planets are not concerned with morality. Uranus devoured his children and Pluto was a rapist. These two planets were in conjunction in the sixties, seeding the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement in America, apartheid in South Africa, appalling atrocities in Vietnam, and stormy weather in Kennedy’s Camelot. Now something darker has emerged out of the clash of these two Titans as they face off in a tense square –  exact again next month. It is evident in the sombre clouds of discontent that gather on the economic and political horizon. It is evident in the pathological motif of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Our vapid heroine, Anastasia Steele is reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, first published in 1891.

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”
“Yes.”
“All like ours?”
“I don’t know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.”
“Which do we live on – a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one,”
says Tess.

Times were different then for men and for women. And yet, what has really changed in a world where we still hunger for power? Where we cling-wrap our frozen hearts? I wonder if the painful irony of the tragically short life of Tess and the dark theme of Victim, sacrifice and patriarchal power will ever occur to the vacuous Anastasia Steele.

Teilhard de Chardin said: “someday, after mastering the winds, tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of sexual love. Then, for the second time in history, we shall have discovered fire!”   When we naively make a pact with darkness, sign away our souls in the blood of our own arrogance, our addiction to the tyranny of superficial thrills, we will never know the exquisite heat of fire. Our soulful lives will inevitably be dappled with shadows – those parts of our psyches that we ignore or repress. And yet if we wish to live authentic lives we will have to give up our pretence of ignorance. We must be discerning about who – and what we allow into our world. We will have to pause to consider how our diet of thoughts, words and images may desensitise, dehumanise, rob us of our own fire. Instant gratification of an anonymous fuck leaves us starving for intimacy and lasting love. How our quest for power, the wicked games we play with one another, catapults us over the precipice of integrity, where we lie, redundant, in a wasteland of isolation.

Have we wandered so far into the Twilight Zone that we have forgotten the voices of those that stood in the sunlight with flowers in their hair? Has the hope, the idealism, the vision of a better world faded to Shades of Grey? Last word must go to Tess in her innocent naiveté: “A strong woman who recklessly throws away her strength, she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.”

Amy Winehouse sings Back to Black

4

The Unforgiven Ones

“I’ve just had a shouting match with my ex-husband!” laments a dear friend. “Completely lost my cool. Regressed into a screaming three-year old!” As we stand in the light, we cast a long shadow. For so many of us who strive to live consciously, it comes as a shock when an event, a “chance meeting” with a former partner, a blow-up with a family member, exposes those orphaned parts of ourselves: the arrogance, irresponsibility, the greed, and the violence we disown in ourselves. Our shadow resides in the aching back, the stiff knees, the gnawing rat in our stomach. It lurks in what we idealise, or what repels us, in others. Our shadow holds a vast ocean of energy, which crashes through the containment of the harbour walls. We practice random acts of kindness, yet cannot bear to be in the same room as the one who hurt us so badly all those years ago. Gandhi said that forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. And time after time, we find we are not strong at all. We can hardly bear the weight of our own weakness. Catherine Ponder, author and minister, writes, “when you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

We cannot bridle this dark energy, curb it’s wildness with whip and spurs. We must approach carefully, with respect. If we lock it away in a stable, it will kick down the door when we least expect it. And yet, ride it we must. How can we ever be intimate with another if we do not ride on the same black steed as Mephostopheles?

Taking our “power back” has become the catch-phrase of the self-absorbed 21st Century. What is this “power” we are urged to take back? The Latin word for power or force is vis. The vis, the living force, we now call energy, is also the urgent thrust of our life force – All that we are. Our Light. Our Shadow. We cannot eradicate, repress the vis of the soul. It will find its way up to the light. And our ostracised collective repressions materialise as missiles, gunmen, wars. Then, something, someone, pushes our lethally destructive “button”. Detonates the bomb of unforgiveness we have secreted in the dim-lit arsenal of our very own psyche.

Many therapists urge their patients to express their anger. In astrology, our libido, life force, anger, is the province of the god of war, Mars. We all have Mars in our birth charts. For so many of us with Mars in fixed signs or a challenged Mars,  the act of forgiveness may be harder, take longer. We may never be ready to release it in this lifetime, and there is no right or wrong in this decision to hold on if we cannot bear the freedom of letting go. It is when we overlook, dishonour our Mars that we consciously or unconsciously embark on a painful struggle. Like Love, Forgiveness is a conscious, choice. “The act of forgiveness takes place in our own mind. It really has nothing to do with the other person,” says Louise Hay.  Ultimately, it is up to each one of us to set ourselves free from our own painful hold on the one who has wronged us.

Therapy, forgiveness workshops, rituals can all be helpful. Setting boundaries, a time limit each day initially for our grief and anger. Not allowing it to spill over and pollute our lives, blacken the future. One antidote against the poison of our dark thoughts is the simplicity of gratitude. Committing to writing a daily dozen opens the bud of a new consciousness. The practice of  ho’oponopono, is a practical way to forgive and cleanse clinging thoughts that make us literally or metaphorically ill. Only we can choose to see our enemy with compassionate eyes. This does not mean condoning or agreeing with their behaviour. This does mean acknowledging that there are no mistakes and that there is always a new birth in the chaos of destruction.

If we trust the healing process, dedicate time to be aware of our thoughts, our actions to witness the metaphors in our dreams, our lives will flow into new experiences, new learning, new ways of being, beyond our imagining. Says Marion Woodman: “The Self pushes the neglected forward for recognition. Do not disregard it. It holds energy of highest value. It is the gold in the dung. Do not disregard the dung.” It is very difficult to be judgemental of anything outside ourselves once we recognise that what we loathe in the other resides within ourselves. Only we can use the dung in our lives to fertilise a spring garden where fragrant blossoms of forgiveness bloom.

Crash Test Dummies – The Unforgiven Ones

 

 

 

2

Bad Moon Rising

I am often touched, more often confounded, by the alacrity with which we share the most intimate details of our lives on social networking sites. We proudly show and tell – our holiday pictures, our new kitten, what we ate last night. Share our plans for the weekend. We fervently express our frustrations, share our delights, our heartbreaks, in the safety of cyberspace. We are relational creatures. And social networking sites give us a safe illusion of community, of friendship, even love, without the messy bits we inevitably encounter in the flesh. We are attracted by bright shiny things – what’s trending, what’s new. And just like in our often messy “real lives”, how often do we pause to question, think, pay attention, before we accept someone else’s version of “the truth”.  As we chatter unceasingly, like birds on a wire, how often do we question the hive mind? Ask ourselves, “is this really true?”

The Buddhist term, Monkey Mind, means “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”. It is our insatiable curiosity, our restless minds that both sanctify and bedamn our humanness.

In my quest for what lies beneath, my Monkey Mind seized “The Filter Bubble”,  which offers Eli Pariser’s appraisal of a silent revolution which will have far-reaching implications for each one of us… until we choose differently. With no fanfare, as Saturn squared Pluto on December 4th, 2009, Google began personalising its search results to each user. Like jellyfish, we floated benignly into the Bubble. Few people paused to absorb the implications and far-reaching repercussions of a world that will be shaped to fit like a suit of armour. A world where we may think we have choice, but where we go through the motions of our lives, reacting to stimuli like Pavlov’s unfortunate dog. The “personalised search for everyone” now flourishes in a  world where so many of us feel unimportant, invisible, unloved,  and where now there is someone out there who  suggests what we would like to buy, where we would like to eat, tells us what we should be doing next. Google now tracks every move you make, from where you were logging into yesterday to what browser you were using, to make guesses as to what sites you’d like…even if you are logged out. For now, Google says it will keep our personal data to itself, in the feeding frenzy for highly profitable personal data, other companies are gobbling up our credit ratings, the medication we use, the music, movies, sport and holidays we enjoy.

Our monkey minds have created a deluge of information, so the allure of The Ark is a safe bet in a rising ocean of crashing stimuli.  By 2014 we’ll need new units of measurement, new power plants to cope with the deluge of blog posts, tweets, Facebook status updates, and emails that ricochet into cyberspace every single day. Two years ago, Google chairman, Eric Schmidt claimed that  in 2003 we were creating as much data every two days as had been recorded between the dawn of civilisation. That torrent of data is accelerating faster now.

Most of us naively assume that when we Google something we all see the same results, but since December 2009, this is no longer true in the “Filter Bubble”. Algorithmic observers watch our every click. Search engines are biased through our narrow lens of perception, so we see through the one way mirror darkly our own preferences and prejudices reflected back to us. As our attention deficit focus flickers through the  swirling sea of information – we sink comfortably into a custom-made world that is inhabited by our favourite people, palatable ideas. We sit back as all the potentially disturbing bits fade away, we we all live happily ever after in Pleasantville.  Even our choice of language is confined to the banal, and subjective, “like”. So we “like” a friend’s post to bump up visibility. And with the same limited choice of word, would we “like” the atrocities in Syria?

Says Eli Pariser,…“my sense of unease crystallised when I noticed that my conservative friends had disappeared from my Facebook page. Politically, I lean to the left, but I like to hear what conservatives are thinking, and I’ve gone out of my way to befriend a few and add them as Facebook connections. Their links never turned up in my Top News feed…Facebook is doing the calculations and noting our links, deciding what to show us and what to hide… Proof of climate change might bring up different results for an environmental activist and an oil company exec.” No more chance encounters, no more jarring collisions of ideas or cultures.

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, claims that Facebook may be the biggest source of “news” in the world. With ominous bravado, he announces, “A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa,” And some sources say 36 percent of Americans under the age of 30, garner their “news” from social networking sites. Are we regressing into a “global village” where we stay behind our fibre optic screens, wary of strangers? Where we interact only with those who share our world view, bolster our biased beliefs. Like little children we go out to play, while the Cyclops stare of our new iPhone watches where we go, knows who we call, what movies we like, what we read… Are we doing a lot of talking, with scant connection beyond the narrow niche of self-interest? We can, to a certain degree, choose to buy a certain newspaper, or watch a certain news channel, knowing that the editorial team’s bias suits our perception. We can choose not to have a Facebook account or an iPhone.  But for me, that would be like denying the invention of the wheel. Byron Katie says, “placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience. Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.”

Perhaps our liberation lies in the mercurial brilliance of our Monkey Minds to investigate our own filter bubbles where we live with our own stories. To pause, consider, before we become anesthetised by the lack of oxygen in our own biased beliefs. To be discerning, aware, of what words and images we imbibe. Says Byron Katie, “An uncomfortable feeling is not an enemy. It’s a gift that says, get honest; inquire.” We will not see the bad moon rising, unless we choose to.

 

Photography by Tacit Requiem – Full Moon Rising

Creedence Clearwater Revival Bad Moon Rising

 

 

 

 

4

Wonderful Life

Do you sometimes feel you are living your life like a hamster on a wheel? You wake up, go to work, wonder where the week went? Do you feel as if your wild self has been domesticated, harnessed by duties, demands, dos and don’ts? That the moments of happiness are fleeting clouds that scud across the surface of your life?

It takes a strong wind of change to topple us from the high wire of our sleepwalking lives. A fragment of conversation that comes to us, like the fragrance of sweet jasmine. A book, a song, an interview on YouTube which invites us back to a deeper place where we embrace our Wholeheartedness. Something quite unexpected that reminds us that Life is mysterious.And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet.

I have just read Dying to be Me, Anita Moorjani’s story of the “terminal lymphoma” which ravaged her body for four painful years. Anita was rushed to hospital, her vital organs suddenly silent. Like Snow White, in her glass coffin, Anita lay in a coma. Her doctor told her grief-stricken family that she had only a few hours to live. Anita describes the near death experience (NDE) that brought an instant release of the fear that was stifling her life force. In her profoundly moving account of what she learnt after returning to her body, she delivers a simple message to the world. It is a message we have heard, but not heeded, for centuries.  It is the one thing we all find so difficult to really do: To Love OURSELVES unconditionally. To step out of our own way, and let things flow.

Yet, who is the Self we must love? And how do we nurture and love this Self if we have tasted only neglect, or blame, even cruelty, in our families of origin? How do we love ourselves with gentleness and compassion, if we don’t know how? If our core belief is that we are unworthy, that life is hard or dangerous? How do we soften, how do we love fearlessly if our instincts are blunted, our hearts shielded protectively?

We live in a Petri dish of fear in the West.  We fear the sun, we fear growing fat. We fear losing our loved ones, we fear losing our source of income. We fear old age, we fear death. We fear love. We fight AIDS, we support “Cancer Prevention” campaigns, we take out insurance, invest our money in hospital plans, bolster our sense of safety with imaginary security – money in the bank, stocks and shares – our beliefs are fuelled by lack and aspiration. Like automatons we march with the tribe mind to the drum beat of fear and competition. We juice, read self-help books, exercise, go for regular medical check-ups, but if we cannot truly love and honour ourselves, we sit passively on the Ferris wheel of life, vaguely aware that the interludes of happiness are ephemeral. Round and round we go, living in the past, living in the future, never in the Now.

Anita Moorjani says she believes that her cancer manifested in her body because of her enormous fear of living.  Now she wakes in the morning and asks herself, why am I choosing to be alive today? And she lives from that perspective, in self-love.

So we may experience ourselves in illness or in lack. We may lose our way in the labyrinth of our seriousness. Our minds may be filled with discord, dissonance. We may entangle ourselves in the straining and resisting we call stress. Meister Eckhardt said that “when the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image”. Beneath our Promethean thrust to discover, analyse, grasp, we blind ourselves with the glare of our stolen fire to the brilliance of the Light with ourselves. Like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, has been there all the time. So, all we can do is to be very gentle with ourselves, find the humour in our grumpiness, our acting out, our blaming others –  ourselves. Until we decide not to. We can waken to a new day. Remember that we are all part of a magnificent mandala of creation. Look deeply today.

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

Extract from “Call Me By My True Names – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Dying to be Me

Artwork by Emelisa Mudle

Wonderful Life

 

 

 

3

Dante’s Prayer

Some experiences create a gentle ripple that gently rocks the smooth surface of our lives. Others strike and devastate, leaving us standing in the charred devastation of a world now precarious, darkly uncertain. What is now contained, tagged and labelled as “The Denver Shooting” to describe the unspeakable tragedy that exploded into our consciousness last week, was depicted in the sky script at a time when the Dark Knight, Pluto, in T- square with Uranus and Mars – power, unpredictable, explosive rage, harm to the public, depicted by the Moon trine Uranus, quincunx Chiron, sextile Mars, in the fourth house, the house of endings. *

When I heard the news, I was pinioned to the cliff face of shock and then engulfed by a wave of sorrow – sorrow for those lives touched by the actions of a young man still in the tender budding of his adult life. Sorrow for James Holmes, blinded by the madness of his own rage, his own suffering, his own inexorable compulsion to do what he believed he had to do. What a soul contract. The astrological picture of the event has a sense of fatedness. And in its wake, I have sensed an uneasiness, a sense of collective memory that has been nudged again to remember all the unspeakable acts of horror and violence human beings have perpetrated against each other, animals, and our earth home for centuries.  From its dark lair, anxiety yawns and stretches ominously, breathing its fetid breath onto the lives of so many who hold their breath and bow their heads and hurry about their day. Pain lies in stagnant pools that ripple when we receive news that shocks and terrifies, pulling us into the undertow of what spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle  has called “the pain body.” And as we resist what is, the slippery stresses of our lives gain momentum, and slither into debilitating anxiety, pessimism, or crippling depression. They become embodied in physical symptoms, as we block the energy flow that may be our ally. We lose our way, and like Dante, find ourselves in exile, utterly alone in the dark woods, where we must face our demons, wandering, wondering, when will this ever end?

The ego sups on man’s madness – and we step towards our predetermined Fate blindfolded – unless we begin to glimpse new possibilities, imagine our way through the dust that obscures, begin to use language that strives to mirror our thoughts. Our soul contract for this lifetime is not a grid of frozen inevitability if we trust our own energy, use our instinct, and evoke our faith to lead us out of the cul-de-sac of fear. I do believe there is a fate that has already been apportioned to us. It is depicted in our birth charts. Yet, when the life of someone we love has been stubbed out, in a cinema, on a motorway, in their own home or office, no spiritual platitudes or intellectual ramblings will remedy our pain – until we are ready to heal the thought that has created the pain. Until we can find meaning in our suffering.

The movie adaptation of the 2005 novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”  is a modern allegory that deals with the nigredo, the blackness, of grief and loss after the bombings of the Twin Towers. The hero is a nine-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who tries to make meaning out of the death of his beloved father, whom he believes was one of the many souls who jumped from that towering inferno on that fateful day in September.

In alchemy, Nigredo means putrefaction, decomposition. In astrology, the transit of Pluto can become the pestle and mortar where we are pulverised, where we lie dismembered, in our congealed blood, and where we must piece ourselves together, bone by bone.  In fairy tales, the hero encounters characters in the form of old hags, wolves, giants, or dwarves that test and challenge him, but also reward his perseverance and humility with magical assistance. In this deeply moving story, Oskar meets men and women who guide him on his path through the darkness of despair, bringing new insight, and acceptance of that which is incomprehensible, and perhaps always will be. His quest ends with acceptance and a clearing in the darkness of the forest:  “So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in! But it also means you have to let them go!”

So in the aftermath of the dark night in Denver, and the collective shock and sorrow; in the murky mists of our personal tragedies, all we can do is to minister to the minutiae of our daily lives, all we can hope to do is to accept the inexplicable, and live in “the now”. All we can do is believe that things are unfolding, exactly as they should, entwining fate, encoded in our DNA, in our birth charts, where there is “a perfect plan” with the choices we make in each moment. All we can do it to trust that there is a mysterious force that will guide us through the dark woods, if we pay attention to the symbols, the metaphors, and look beyond the mechanical Newtonian view of the universe… trust that we are in the perfect time, the perfect place for our soul’s contract. Our soul knows when it is done – our relationships, our work, and when our time has come to leave our body. And then, our clay feet will grow wings to fly above our limited human awareness, as our flawed human hearts stay open to love.

* Paul Saunders gives an intelligent astrological update on the aftermath of the dark night in Denver:

 

Loreena McKennitt

“When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars…”

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