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Relationship

Dust in the Wind

Shall I leave my job, my relationship – can I afford not to? Shall I move home, live in the country? Am I ready to get married? Like mendicant dervishes whirling in the hurricane of our own confusion, we are blinded by the dust that swirls around the deeper truth of our questions. We falter, circle around the truth, obsess about the peripherals, back ourselves into the either-or, the no-escape corner, where we sit, huddled in the sandstorm of our immobilising fear.

It is tempting to hand over decision-making to our guru, our therapist, our rabbi, our priest. It is tempting to search for the answer to the dilemma that bedevils us outside ourselves. When we beseech someone out there to tell us what to do, we mute The Wise Man or Wise Woman within who know that the answers to the deeper questions are always found within the stillness of our own hearts.

No authority figure can ever know the sacred landscape of our soul. Their lives will be very different to ours; through the choices they have made, and if we follow their advice, our journey will be their journey, no longer ours.  It is we who are the hero or heroine of our own story.  When we reach the silence of surrender, that tipping point of acceptance of the situation, just as it is, we may come to a plateau of new perspective where we cease feeling sorry for ourselves, angry at someone else. Only when we stop blaming our partner, our friend, the organisation, or ourselves, can we sift through the chaff of fear and pain, our resistance to change; the guilt we may feel at “ letting someone down”, or the belief that we are “needed” by someone else. Only then can we know that our soul is calling us to new territory.  “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behaviour, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity. ” said M. Scott Peck. Observe the old scripts, the raucous voices that shout out their opinions. They may be the static that distorts the signal of our truth. When we close our eyes and connect with our full aliveness, tap into the perennial stream of our own power, we liberate ourselves from the shackles of indecision. When we cease wishing and hoping for things to be different, chaffing at our restraints, longing to escape, we can make a sober assessment of our situation, and reclaim our power to choose differently. Byron Katie says, “Suffering is optional. The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with reality… Which is more empowering –“I wish I hadn’t lost my job or I lost my job; what can I do now?  ” 

What we can do now is make a leap in passion and in trust. Witness the fleeting sandstorms of insecurity, conflict, loss, blame and guilt. What we can do now is to take responsibility for what it is we want, then commit to our wise decision, knowing that we are deserving of goodness and happiness.

Our lives, this world, are in a constant process of change, a continual cycle of birth, death, re-birth. The cycles of the planets symbolise above what is unfolding below: Pluto and Uranus, cosmic catalysts for change square up against one another again from June 7th, provoking collective and personal change and new growth. Watch as political and economic events reflect the tension and metamorphosis. Feel the tension in our own lives, the need to slough off old skin, discard the mask, reclaim our original face.

A spiritual journey is a long process through desolate valleys, up steep mountainsides. Often it is our unhappiness or dis-ease that catapults us out of our entropy, arouses our quest for a more authentic life. We live in a state of paradox as we journey through the mystery and complexity of our daily lives, and deal with the consequences of the choices we make. To proceed very far through the desert, you must be willing to meet existential suffering and work it through. In order to do this, the attitude toward pain has to change. This happens when we accept the fact that everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth.” – M. Scott Peck.

In those desert storms, clarity comes in moments of deep silence. Then we need to ask ourselves if we have the courage to follow the wisdom of our heart, accept the situation for what it is, take responsibility for the choice to walk across the threshold and enter a room we have never visited before.

Kansas

Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
The wind

Artwork: Sandstorm by Rebekah Osorio

0

Between Two Lungs

It is our in-breath that holds us in Life. And yet it is when an opportunistic virus squats in the warm moistness of our body, and our lungs rattle and wheeze in the echoing silence of the night, it is only then that we experience the desperate urgency of that vital breath. We can live for weeks without food, days without water, only minutes without the hallowed air that connects us to the world around us. Yet, how often do we move mechanically through our days, without pausing to marvel at the miracle that is our body.  Until we wake from our stupor… until something goes wrong.

Many religions place care of the body as a sacred responsibility. The body is the temple for the soul, a physical form through which we all experience spirit, our humanness. Yet paradoxically, these same religions condemn our carnality; denounce our bodily functions, shame our sexuality. We have lost our ancient connection to the land, to our own animal bodies.  We worship at the altar of the mind, banishing our bodies, mutilating ourselves in our vain quest for some standard of “perfection”. Physical fitness is extolled in the media and in Western culture, yet below the skin of the perfect body,  lurks a fetid abscess of shame which poisons our blood, defiles our bones. We subjugate our natural cycles, starve our hunger for touch, use them like landfills for the garbage of shame and self-abuse. The memory of fear, loathing, and trauma, lies in the vaults of our musculature, stays, silenced in our timid, shallow breathing.

How many of us love our bodies? Care for them as we would minister to a beloved pet or a cherished child? The black rat of dissatisfaction gnaws in the belly of this body we say we love. Our bodies remain charred uninhabited landscapes. We’re talking heads, amputated from flesh and blood, swinging in space.  So, there comes the day when our athletic knees fail us after years of hip misalignment, and we must genuflect. Our facial muscles atrophy from mis-use of botox, our shoulders ache, immobilised by static hours at the computer. We are dis-embodied – unable to access the intuitive wisdom –  or the raw courage to defy the herd mind and attune to what feels self-nurturing.

As Caroline Myss says, “Our biography becomes our biology.”   So coming Home to the body requires listening, in silence, to the body’s innate wisdom to heal, to regenerate. It may take years to silence the critical voices in our heads that push us beyond exhaustion, that quell our instinctual hunger and desire. Jung talks of the Eros principle to describe this sense of interconnectedness, this sense of being fully alive, awake, in our fleshy moist bodies. He connected Eros to the archetype of The Mother, the feminine, the connection with the Earth, with sensual touch, with food, with nurturing, with relatedness to all things. Eros is our life force. When the feminine is demonised, devalued, she slips silently underground. She falls asleep, emerges angry, erupts as dis-ease. Somatised emotions sing to us our soul-songs of pain.

In the patriarchal West, we honour Logos – the masculine. When masculine and feminine energies are imbalanced, as they are in so many institutions, and religions, what emerges is competitiveness, perfection, specialisation, over-rationalisation, greed, mis-use of power, and the ultimate insanity – war. When masculine and feminine are out of kilter, we try to transcend who we really are. So often it is an illness, some kind of physical break down that brings us Home to  surrender, so softly to the warmth of  our bodies. Says Marion Woodman, “This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known. “

So, as we allow our minds to become still  energy  enters, the feelings  overflow… we begin to breathe deeply, filling our soft bellies, receiving… Life. As we learn to trust, to take seriously the honour of loving our body, our dreams bring us precious pearls in oyster shells of  metaphor, and imagery. They speak to us of dis-ease in our body if we are attentive, long before our bodies talk to us through symptoms.  Or, perhaps an “accident” may open the door to a room in our psyche we have never entered. “Injury is an essential part of the life cycle of any active biological organism,” writes Josh Schrei. “Only in a world in which we seek an endless summer and a lifestyle of perpetual comfort would we consider injury as entirely negative. Our very life cycles say otherwise. Our mothers birth us in pain and rapture, structurally altering themselves — and often being injured — in the process. We ourselves are born through a passage that puts tremendous pressure on our new frames and warps them out of symmetry right from the start… The reality is that injury — like all things in this realm of physical preciousness, up to and including death — is a gift if we take it as such.”

We cannot destroy our energy; lose our power, (to anything or anyone). It is there all the time, in the sacred landscape of our body. In the heart, between our two lungs.

Florence and the Machine –  Between Two Lungs

Dreams of a Saturday Morning in my Lover’s Bed – art by C.S. Scogins.

3

Falling Slowly

Growing into wholeness can take many years, or it can happen in an instant. That Grace-filled moment when we can be alone with ourselves and truly like who we are. Often it is the spectre of fear that blocks the threshold to the brilliant blaze of full aliveness. We flounder as we grasp the elusive memory of wholeness, the melted butter richness of contentment, often so difficult to sustain in the context of our relationships, our working conditions, our financial worries. Reality congeals around us, enveloping the spark of hope; we are becalmed, stagnant, stuck.  We lose our way in the dark woods; confront the black wolf of our own shadow. Phantom-like we float through the motions of marginal living, unable to feel even our joy, as we sit, silent, inconsolable. Yet through the symptoms in our tired bodies, our souls scream out from the abyss of our own isolation. We know what we don’t want.  But do we have the clarity, in our sleep-deprived, crowded lives to glimpse the spark of  passion that gives meaning to our existence?  Do we know what we really love?

The lives we create with the thoughts we think, moment by moment, day by day, may obliterate that spark.  Like the little Match Girl in the Hans Christian Anderson adaptation of the fairy tale, we wander the icy streets, staring into windows at abundant tables, Christmas trees bedecked with baubles and gingerbread sticks, the cosy log fires of other peoples’ living rooms. We sit in the nook of our days, striking match after creative match, depleting our life force, snuffing out our passion… settling for the falling star of the job, the relationship. We believe the slippery lies that freeze us to death. Perhaps our biggest fear may be that if we free our minds of the thoughts that petrify us, open our hearts, we will make those big life changes that will crash through the flimsy structures of our lives. Our marriages will be torn asunder, we will resign from our jobs, alienate our friends.  Often that is exactly what does happen. And yet, if we stay with padlocked heart in the dark dungeon of routine chores or cup cake fixes – a new hair style, a pair of expensive shoes, a holiday, or interior design project to distract us – the price we pay for living in the safety zone will exhaust our spiritual bank account. We will project our dis-ease upon others in our homes and offices, we suffocate our souls with addictions, and we numb our bodies with medication. Eventually we must pay a price for a life unlived. “What is not brought to consciousness comes to us as Fate, ”  said Jung.

The way of the heart is the way of the “sacred warrior” said Chogyam Trungpa.  There is a danger in feeling our hunger, dismantling our defences. But what also happens is that when we free-fall and smash through our fear, the angels send us white feathers to guide us on our path. We may need to crash and burn. To rise, like the phoenix from the ashes of our lives, burnt black, transformed irrecoverably.

Changing base metal into gold is not done with bells and whistles, but in the darkness of the night. In our dreams, our daytime reveries, the sudden surge of recognition that feels strong and authentic in our bellies. Like goddess-saint Brigit of Kildare’s ever-burning flame, our light will not be extinguished unless we douse it ourselves. No man, woman, god out there can extinguish our own Divinity. It is there all the time if only we will turn towards the Light and warm ourselves at the fire. The spark we need might be a fragment of a conversation we overhear in the supermarket, the lyrics for a song; encouragement of a friend, a skilful therapist, to coax the green shoots of new growth. Sometimes we are required to dismantle the fortress of our hostility and our fear, granite stone by granite stone. To fall slowly into the ocean of our tears and swim to shore. We will always be required to work honestly, consistently to see through the smoke and mirrors that distort our truth. We will always be required to silence for ever the competing voices in our heads – our parents, our society, our siblings or friends – and recognise the sound of our own true voice. We will always be required to have a genuine desire to change our lives. To be vigilant that our journey towards self-awareness is not simply self-absorption or narcissism.   Only then can we fall slowly into the reality of our lives. To begin to live in conscious relationship by being truthful in our communications, realistic in our great expectations. To laugh more, guilt-trip less.  Only then can we savour the blissful beatitude of being in flow in our lives; in harmony with the whole cosmos. Healed, and whole.

For Ray. “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” Rumi

Paula Mills. Feather art.   Glen Hansard Falling Slowly

1

Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)

We encounter them in our offices. They live amongst our families. We befriend them online, in our friendship circles. They are the beguiling strangers we meet on our travels. Men and women who leave us depleted, disorientated, disempowered, sucked dry.

They travel in groups. Wan-faced teens with vacant eyes. Pale bodies indelibly stained with tattoos, savagely pierced with shiny metal – fag ends of ancient initiation ceremonies that once embraced and bound neophytes to the tribe. This  fragment of tribal belonging so often lacks a spiritual profundity. So they live their lives vicariously, vacuously. Umbilically attached to the iPod.

The vampire is a shadowy figure that has sunk its sharp fangs into myth and legend in every culture for thousands of years. Cursed, defiled, denied, damned, the un-dead reappear in popular culture, often eroticised: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Interview with the Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula,True Blood,The Vampire Diaries, Twilight. In modern culture, the vampire is mild mannered, courteous. No ghoul or  hideous monster. The scene is always the same. A naive, but always willing victim invites the vampire into the home or bedroom, where it sucks the red life blood from a proffered neck to sustain its own life force. There is a chilling sense of fatal attraction. A passive complicity, an enchantment, as the victim exposes her seductive neck, or lies alluringly asleep. Night after night the Vampire visits. The Victim wavers, weakens. Then, bloodless, transforms into a cadaverous demon ravenous for a fresh source of life-blood. Vampires have lost a connection to their core aliveness. Circumstance, or Fate, has battered their ability to connect with Source, the Divine, leaving them lost, alone, going through the motions of living. In movies, TV series, the old myths are coloured with swooning eroticism. The early recorded stories were very dark and carnal, with brutal destruction of the vampire-turned-victim by the ordinary village folk. In myth and fairy tale the hero or heroine is enchanted. Lost in a dark wood, displaced, far from kith and kin, vulnerable. In poetry, love stories, the unconscious psychic connection between lovers becomes the macabre death-dance of victim and persecutor, as lovers merge, fragile psyches become possessed by these devouring archetypes. John Keats describes this sense of enchantment:
Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing… La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Celebrities captivate sycophants into their orbits. Movie stars, singers, models can be literally possessed by the vampire archetype. They feed off their advisors and groupies, the “love” from their audiences, and in turn are devoured, leaving in their wake the detritus of drugs, drink and deception that destroys. Often suicide is the only way to leave the emptiness. We can constellate the vampire archetype in our own lives in the victim- persecutor dance brutally played out in so many relationships. In fear and lack, we may constellate people into our lives who polish our egos, make us feel needed, loved, important for a while… and together we germinate a symbiotic relationship that leaches our joie de vivre, saps our sense of self, sucks out promise, all hope. “Loneliness, physical or spiritual, may allow this complex to manifest. Falling in love is another common way to become vulnerable to this manifestation. Many vampire stories tell of women or men who unwittingly fall in love with a vampire, and after marriage become their victims” writes Bob Johnson.

Studies on incest and paedophilia tap into the vampire archetype. The vampire complex lurks like a hidden virus in families, surfacing again and again in successive generations. Until someone breaks the ties that bind…

Bob Johnson continues, “Vampire lore suggests incest because the most startling aspect of the folkloric vampire is that he must first attack members of his own family. His victims are preordained to be those he loved most in life. Modern versions do not always include this element, but it is almost universal in vampire folktales. And so we have the vampire father and mother who must first attack those they love.” James Twitchell, in his book on incest writes about the vampire: “I cannot think of any other monster-molester in our culture who does such terrible things to young victims in such a gentlemanly manner. He is always polite and deferential, and his victim is almost always passive in return.” The deeply disturbing movie, Trust deals with online sexual predators and the shattering of trust in a family as a 14-year-old girl is groomed and lured by the vampiric Charlie.

Not all victims of vampires become vampires in turn. Some survive to write books, appear on talk shows. Young children escape the savage breast of a vampire mothers or a psychically devouring father. Elizabeth Lesser escaped her demon lover and wrote about her experiences in Broken Open. We are not required to become vampires. We  allow ourselves to swoon. We stay too long. We deny our instincts. We vacillate, procrastinate, assuage our doubts, wish and hope it will all get better…. It never does. Without a strong sense of authentic self, a spiritual fountainhead that sustains our thirst, a sense of meaning, a philosophy that animates us when events in our lives darken all the silver linings in the clouds, we float in a void, drained of our life force, or sit, waiting at the window. Passively, we vacillate, procrastinate, and loiter in the darkness of our own fear, our own terror of living our lives with blood red passion…

So our holy quest is to discover for ourselves that source of spiritual succour. To connect with our inner world through music, dance, poetry. To discover an activity that gives meaning to our lives. To draw into our lives those relationships that nourish and delight. It takes courage to dismount from the Ferris Wheel of busyness and distraction. Often it is an act of will to sit in a field of daisies, and listen to the whisper of our soul, the heartbeat of the earth. Like Parsifal, we need to ask the right question. And then take action to save ourselves.

Stevie Nick’s lyrics depict the vampiric dance

“Now and others say…. she’s not really real….Like a candle burns bright, wants to burn faster~ well maybe then… at least she really feels.. Burning like a candle in the middle…She’s lonely, lost…she’s disconnected. She finds no comfort in her surroundings. Beautiful, Insecure, she has nothing. She moves from situation to situation…. like a ghost. Then she sees him ….candle burning….”

 

1

Cannon Ball

Sometimes it is a slight tremor that cleaves a reservoir of ancient sorrow.

A rebuff by a friend or family member. An email, a text, you thought you had deleted, that besieges you, ravaging your heart. Sometimes it takes a cannon ball to crash through the structures of our carefully constructed lives: a trauma in the shape of death, divorce, or terminal illness…

This week, grief came to call, throwing a dark shroud over the landscape of my life. The death of my beloved, chocolate-coloured Burmese released a deluge of sorrow, plaintive echoes of an unbounded lamentation.

Each one of us has a unique journey. A timeline marked by graves of grief, some neglected, some still tended daily or on certain occasions. For some, letting go, moving on, comes easily. Others flee from the ravenous jaws of grief, buffered by a smokescreen of a smiling face, or the distraction of a full schedule.

Times of sorrow are not events, but transitional processes that unfold slowly.  These are sacred times in our life journeys. We are obliged to review, to reminisce. To embrace the lacerating pain, and make up a story that makes sense of it all, for us. It is at times of mourning that we must forgo the busyness, the anti-depressants, the avoidance and embrace the weight of silence that descends in the wake of loss. It is at these times we must fully experience the darkness, contemplate the nothingness, without trying to replace or substitute. Our inner children require nurture (not a spa-day of pampering), our bodies require rest, nourishment, a withdrawal of the senses. Our souls require silence, so that grieving can become sacred, rituals relevant.

Grief can be deeply unsettling, disturbing, and uncomfortable for others to witness. So often, I find myself stumbling over words, mumbling platitudes, sending my “deepest sympathies”. Shakespeare knew that grief requires framing: “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak, whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bides it break.” And physician and pathologist, Sir Henry Maudsley wrote at the dawn of the twentieth century “sorrows which find no vent in tears may soon make other organs weep.”

Kahlil Gibran observed “Tears and laughter are inseparable. The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced…

We cry when we are joyful, and when we are overwhelmed by grief. Emotional tears differ from the slicing-of-onions tears. They contain hormones and endorphins which are a moist balm to the searing pain. Tears herald the depth of feelings, reveal relics of unresolved emotions. But only words can identify what lies buried in the heart.

In life, there are those people and animals we deeply love, those we meet in body and mind, a few very precious souls who know our souls. They may be born into homes, cities, countries, so far away from our original starting points. Through our choices, and the complex interwoven chainmail of synchronistic events, our journeys converge; mingle, often for just one brief tremulous moment. Tempus fugit … time flees. With each passing milestone, an anniversary of a death, or a birth or something new, the sweet remembrance of a time tinted now with nostalgia, we become aware of the transience of this life and the Mystery of it all. Sorrow can be a gestation period, long cold waiting in the dank bunker of nothingness… The bittersweet memories, “little bit of your taste in my mouth…” the faint perfume of sadness, the remembrance of deep sense of aloneness that pervades our lives cyclically in a heap of broken images. The inconstant ebb and flow of feelings. The fallow periods of sorrow that herald the bright bud of hope. We may appear less efficient in the world of doingness, and feel as though we are falling apart. We are. Everything will be a mess, and we are required to laboriously re-build from new foundations.

Sorrow, melancholy, depression, like the clouds that scud across moonlit skies to obscure the pure luminescence of the lunar face, are ephemeral, always cyclical. Like the ocean, they ebb and flow, to flood our shores with boundless energy and inspiration, or recede like the tide, revealing shards of broken shells and glistening pebbles etched in the wet sand.

Do we really ever get over ourselves? Should we even try?

“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; A stage where every man must play a part, And mine is a sad one” the bard said.  Some walk lightly, some dance and sing along the way, others have a more sombre journey. A friend of mine shared that she had discovered a pair of pearl earrings in a velvet lined box. She had worn them only once. On her wedding day, a dewy-eyed bride, dressed in white. For her, these lustrous orbs from the watery deep enclose two tear drops of a frozen memory, the chronicle of a sacred day. She described how she had enfolded the cool silky smoothness in her hand, revisiting that time in her nascent life, to feel once more  the featherlike nudge of innocence, and the bittersweet lamentation of enormous loss.

Many of us may cope by framing a new narrative for the lost dreams and disappointments  that lie in wait like sharp stones on our path.  Nelson Mandela told a friend of mine who had a private luncheon with this iconic figure of the joy he experienced in his incarceration when he and the other prisoners would sing together as they worked crushing rock in the quarry, day after day in the searing sun and scalding wind. Many public figures have a narrative of their lives which fits their public persona. Often their birth charts may suggest otherwise. Nearly all of us have misty water-coloured memories of the way we were … our version of a prism of an event, faded by time, embellished by the re-telling.

When we are ready, we re-frame the story in the picture gallery of our life… or float like a cannon ball… until we understand why we are sinking… Damien Rice

THE TINY BOAT

God bless this tiny little boat
And me who travels in it
It stays afloat for years and years
And sinks within a minute.

And so the soul in which we sail
Unknown by years of thinking,
Is deeply felt and understood
The minute that it’s sinking.
Michael Leunig (1945- )

5

Both Sides Now

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Novelist Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, during a time of huge social and political upheaval, violent revolution. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and in 1846, it was the best and worst of time for Neptune to be “discovered” simply because we were ready, collectively, to embrace the archetype, to make another evolutionary shift. It was a time for the Virgin Mary to make an appearance to two wide-eyed children in La Salette, France. It was a time of cholera in England, death by starvation in Ireland. It was time for the spiritualism movement to gain nebulous momentum. It was time for exploring the occult and psychic phenomena. It was time to use cocaine as a local anaesthetic, transporting patients into the sensation-less realm of Neptune.

Neptune is associated with sacrifice, victim consciousness, addiction, pain, renunciation, mass delusion, ambiguity, romance, spirituality, dreams … an ethereal longing to transcend this earthly realm. In Neptune’s sapphire waters, we swim towards “enlightenment” or wash up on the shore of our addictions. We embody our hopes and dreams or passively watch the desiccated flotsam and jetsam of beached yearnings bleach like brittle bones, unable to support the full-formed body of our creativity.

Celestial heralds of the best and worst of times, Neptune and Chiron, dipped into the mystical ouroboric waters of Pisces, in April 2011. Chiron was “discovered” only in 1977, although like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, it had been silently, invisibly there all the time. Chiron embraces the archetype of the “wounded healer” or Shaman, and with the advent of the New Age Movement, we were ready. Chiron compels each one of us to imbibe the sacred medicine of suffering as an initiation into our wisdom and conscious understanding, so that we can enter a new stage of our spiritual journey. This is what the Neptune/Chiron energy has brought to consciousness, making us aware that we are all in the same evolutionary spirit boat. As we individually breathe in the star dust that envelops us in a cloak of collective consciousness, perhaps it is not enough to be a mere custodian of spiritual books or to adopt the cosmology of the Native Americans, the Tibetans, or the Hindus. The flaccid underbelly of the “New Age” subculture will need vigorous toning for the Maharishi Effect to expand into a coherent template of love and unity in collective consciousness.

In our own lives, we now have the opportunity to embrace compassion and spiritual maturity in an intensely personal way. This may mean being more responsible and ethically conscious of the foods we buy, the clothes we wear, the choices we make when we opt to buy or not to buy bright shiny disposable technology (are you aware that that sexy little screen on your mobile phone requires a non-renewable rare earth metal, called indium, that may run out in the next ten years?)  Is “virtual reality” perhaps a sham to escape the appalling loneliness of our disconnected lives? So many of us in the west live in the ivory towers of the intellect. A place where the ultimate goal is unattainable perfection through sheer will – of our bodies, our minds, our bank accounts, our relationships. We self-help, self-improve. Our realm is a place of great straining and striving to accomplish some goal in the future, all the while wearing insulated space suits that keep us separate, safe and small.

“I am a Rock,” sang Simon and Garfunkel… “I am shielded in my armour, Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.”

Neptune and Chiron will  gradually dissolve all that we thought was of substance in our lives through the long Pisces transit (2018 for Chiron and 2026 for Neptune). Over these next decades, we may be required to examine the porous membrane of social networking sites. To be more discerning and honest about how we Eat, Pray and Love. To ponder why it is that we feel the need for the puritanical cleansing of our souls to make us “better” than we are right now. To question, with intelligence and humility, the illusion of what we “know” as “truth” about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, our lovers, our friendships, our god, our footprint on this earth, be it “sustainable” or stiletto-heeled living. To examine our societal and cultural beliefs. To question our desire to belong to the tribes we form at the office, the gym, and our places of worship. To look, from both sides now, at our own narratives, the “rights” and the “wrongs” about this world we live in. To acknowledge that just because it “happens” it may not mean it is honourable, just or right.

Joni Mitchell  knows the bows and flows so well:

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now,

From win and lose, and still somehow

It’s life’s illusions I recall.

I really don’t know life at all.”

 

0

Old Ideas

There’s a fresh wind shaking the branches of the old oak trees of humanity. A whole generation of baby boomers at the golden zenith of their potential are growing new careers, committing to new relationships, scattering their creative offerings across a world on the brink of great social and cultural change. “Retirement” has become an anachronism in a new zeitgeist that sets fire to the taboo on old age and death. “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again,” said C.S. Lewis. In our communities, our families, our friendship circles, there are remarkable men and women who defy the stereotypes, say a quiet “yes” to the soft flutter in their belly to embrace all the possibilities that allow them to start reading fairy tales once more.

Leonard Cohen, at 77, has just released his latest album, “Old Ideas”, Engelbert Humperdinck at 75, has been nominated to represent the UK at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The British film industry, mirroring the collective lake of consciousness, has released two films dealing with ageing from very different perspectives; The Iron Lady”  and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”.  Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Barbarba Streisland, Louise Hay, Dame “Judi” Dench, Oprah Winfrey… teachers, entrepreneurs, celebrities, and ordinary men and women living extra-ordinary lives – powerfully, positively, productively. As Pluto, god of the Underworld moves silently through the sign of Capricorn, the archetypes of the senex, and the crone are being embodied in these feisty elders, suggesting a gradual rebalancing of our collective cult of youth worship. Jane Fonda, now in her 70s is tackling Act III of her life with the same trailblazing revolutionary spirit that she brought to political causes, and the go for the burn”  fitness videos that plugged aerobics into the living rooms of millions of women. In her book, Prime Time” , she cites studies that show that on average, (in the well-fed, medicated, war-free West, I assume) an average of 34 years have been added to human life expectancy. She describes how at 46, she began to envision the old woman she wanted to be, and quotes gerontologists who believe that threshold events like widowhood, loss of work, moving home, even a terminal illness, are not experienced as traumas “if they were anticipated and, in effect, rehearsed as part of the life cycle.” Although much of her book has a disease model approach to sexuality and health, it is a starting point for a more soulful approach to living a richly meaningful life. The longevity revolution will require a compass and a new course.

By the year 2020, eighty million Americans will be above the age of sixty. Senior citizens will outnumber young people under the age of 18. In America the Wise” , Theodore Roszak writes of the implications of “the longevity revolution” on culture and social values. Roszak feels that we are demographically illiterate”  as a society and have not yet begun to grasp the implications of mass longevity. Never before have elders possessed the social weight to make their values count in matters of policy and the distribution of wealth… The growing numbers of old people in America could bring about an unprecedented cultural shift toward a more nurturant caregiving ethos, an appreciation for social interdependence and cultivated leisure, a transcendence of competitive striving and status anxiety, and a greater appreciation of the wisdom that comes with age.” There are, of course, millions of older men and woman who feel alienated, invisible, and impotent. Millions who suffer physical and mental degeneration that shrinks their lives and darkens their purpose and meaning. “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for,” said Viktor Frankl. When roles of Parent, Partner, Executive, Homemaker, or Club affiliate are shed, shadowy stretches of depleted time merge soundlessly into months, years that slide into a dark pit of despondency and negativity. The weather becomes either too hot or too cold. A  powerless refrain of lack of money, work, love, health, or support … buries us in the rubble of our concrete thoughts. Albert Camus said darkly, “alas, after a certain age, every man is responsible for his face,” and the truth of that stark statement is revealed in the mirror each morning.

So I guess it falls upon each one of us, no matter what the circumstances of our lives, to cultivate genuine gratitude for the little things: Waking each morning with the ability to get ourselves out of bed. The miracle of seeing the glistening dew on the grass, a coral sunrise, spring flowers. The enchanted chorus of birdsong. The stillness of our kitchen. A cup of hot tea. Our lungs that draw in lifegiving air, our brave hearts that faithfully beat, despite the heartache and disappointments we have endured. Only we can take the blindfold off our eyes. Only we can feel our hearts blossom open petal by fragrant petal. Only we can wear the crown of age, and embody wisdom and our authentic selves. Albert Camus says “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” Only we can stand tall in the  zenith of our lives, and delight in the reading of fairy tales.

Going Home – Leonard Cohen

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Landslide

 

Change is a word, like the outworn “transformation”, that paradoxically stops us in our tracks. We may like the idea of changing. But when it comes to significant changes in our lives, most of us recoil from the bracing air that blasts from the open doorway. We retreat to the familiarity of our routines, familiar landscapes, in a world where the speed of change seems faster than the human psyche can contain. Sometimes our souls cannot catch up with the rush of lives lived to the incessant pulse of noise, busyness. Though, there are times when the flame of our courage burns brighter, illuminating the way out of the familiar, into the unknown.  Market research shows that at those threshold times of transition in our lives –  the end of a relationship, the springtime of a new love affair, loss of a job, move to a new country, or a  pregnancy, are fertile beds to grow new habits – and shopping behaviours! If we are to seize these fleeting moments, make lasting changes, set off on new adventures, we require more than courage. We need a sense of meaning.

Many of us suffer from a sense of something missing. It’s not our relationships, our friendships, or our work. A vague loss of meaning, purpose, enshrouds us like a thick fog. Despite a plethora of self-help books, YouTube offerings, workshops, support groups that offer a better way to love, to live. Despite having the tools, holding the key to The Secret, we still cannot find a way to turn our lives around in an irrevocably changing world.

We may feel we are going through the motions, even living a lie. We may experience a delectable plume of joy, a rush of enthusiasm as a holiday, a new project, a new passion, displaces the sense of emptiness –  for a while. The intense peacefulness after a meditation retreat, the peak experience of falling in love, or a spiritual awakening, stirs up the murky mud from the depths of our psyche, bringing the darkness into clearer view. We awaken the demons from the dark folds of our unconscious and find ourselves raging, or  hollow and sorrowful, after a delicious interlude of light and love. So often, we may feel we are moving backwards rather than forward in our spiritual growth, as we enter that dank valley that St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul”.

Every beginning marks the end of something.  Says Marianne Williamson, “It’s when we face the darkness squarely in the eye – in ourselves and in the world – that we begin at last to see the light. And that is the alchemy of personal transformation. In the midst of the deepest, darkest night, when we feel most humbled by life, the faint shadow of our wings begins to appear. Only when we have faced the limits of what we can do, does it begin to dawn on us the limitlessness of what God can do.”

Many of us enter our spiritual and psychological growth as consumers, shopping around for therapists, healers, gurus, to get us “fixed” more quickly. Some of us compare ourselves to other, “more spiritually evolved”  people than ourselves, only to judge ourselves as lacking. The competitive, consumer model will not work if we want authentic lives. There are many astrological significators for the various stages of our growth. These celestial cycles are often painful and necessarily slow. “The caterpillar is luckier than we are. It goes through its transformation in the relative peace and security of a cocoon. We, however, may be in the middle of a profound shift in our unfoldment and growth and yet, more often than not, are expected to go on with our daily life as if nothing is happening,” says Dr. Roberto Assagioli, founder of psychosynthesis. These messy crises are a natural part of the cycle of growth. We plummet from the peaks dishevelled and disheartened by what seems to be the enormity of the forces that obstruct our movement to where we long to be.  When we hear, “you were much better before you started meditating/ going to therapy/yoga…” know our mettle is being tested. When we flatline into despair, go a little further. Anatole France says, “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” It is in the landslides of change, as we are covered with the muddy debris of our choices, that we discover our alignment with the seasons of our lives, our belonging to this beautiful Earth. It is when we courageously climb down from the mountain, do we discover a new landscape, a new season in our lives…. Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. This is for you, Bev …

 

I took my love and I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Mmm Mmm… I don’t know… Mmm Mmm… Mmm Mmm…

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older too

 

 

 

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If not now?

Behind the proscenium arch of the Greek stage, a tragedy of calamitous human suffering is enacted as government officials quaff cognac and puff at phallic cigars. In this modern day drama, the chorus are ordinary men and women. For many, suicide is the catharsis to loss of livelihood, shelter… and hope, as bloated politicians overstep legal boundaries, and machismo businessmen arrogantly avoid tax payments. This is not really a play about inflated subsidies and debt bingeing of the last decade. Behind the curtains of the euphemistically-named “austerity measures” which darkly ripple across the landscape of so many lives is a far more sombre enactment of a terrible crime.

To the ancient Greeks, Hubris was the greatest crime of all. The outcome, when mere mortals challenged the gods and their laws, overstepping the boundaries, was never without repudiation. There was no escaping the fated denouement. The ancient Greeks had two phrases that encapsulated Greek thinking, and are still relevant today: Know thyself. Nothing in excess.

The glare of the spotlight illuminates the Greek stage, yet in countries, boardrooms, factories, schools, and homes all over the world, misuse of power is a fatally flawed fractal design.

Today, the word Hubris is imbued with a sense of over-confident pride. Only with quiet contemplation and vigilant self examination can we acknowledge where we overstep the boundaries in our ignorance or self-righteousness. Only with scrupulous honesty can we hollow out behaviours that arrogantly assume our entitlement to friendship, or love, or money, or recognition, when it may be we who did not fulfil our side of the bargain. Can we truthfully claim we are owed something when it is so often we who were not present, diligent, honest, or loving?  Can we slouch flaccidly in the hammock of our own self-absorption, meting out judgements and criticisms that make others wrong, ourselves right?

All cultures have a code of ethics for thoughts, words and deeds that do not violate ourselves or other living things. In Sanskrit, for instance, Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things. In Latin, Primum non nocere means first, do no harm.  Some codes take time to crack, and the best we can do is to cultivate the humble awareness of our connection to all living things and to do no harm. “An authentically empowered person is humble. This does not mean the false humility of one who stoops to be with those who are below him or her. It is the inclusiveness of one who responds to the beauty of each soul… It is the harmlessness of one who treasures, honours and reveres life in all its forms”- Gary Zukav.

Since late 2008, when Pluto entered Capricorn, financial and business structures have splintered. We have not yet seen the full trajectory of the Global Recession nor the full implications of misuse of power in government and big business. Recovery will be excruciatingly slow and desperately jobless. The irrevocable sweep of trans-formation (changing form, which always implies a dying) will impact the lives of each one of us in some way. Sombre Saturn, slowly retracing its orbit until October in ethical, judicious Libra, is a stern celestial marker pointing our attention to the necessity for responsibility, realism, and reason, and maturity in our personal lives, in our communities. Austere times require the wisdom of new governance, new law. If not now, then Uranus (until May 2018), dancing a gypsy dance through the sign of Aries (the incendiary energy of rebellion, uprisings, or self-immolation), will shake the flimsy foundations of “civilisation” as we have manifested it.

The fatal flaw in our society is our inherent arrogance. Our collective hubris that has brought Homo sapiens and the plant and animal species on our home planet to the chasm of annihilation.

Bullies and tyrants hold a convenient hook for all that is unacceptable and shadowy, too appalling to own in our personal lives and collectively. Be vigilant for the convenient human tendency to seek a Sacrificial Scapegoat… heavy-handed autocrats, the captains of sunken ships, the boss, ex-husband or wife, the querulous neighbour.  It falls upon each one of us to commit to acts of kindness that expand our capacity for love and generosity that open our awareness to our interconnectedness as living creatures on our beautiful  home planet. If not now, then when?

Tracy Chapman,If not now, then when?

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Show Me Heaven

How do we become exiled from the inner sanctuary of our own essence?  How do we stay too long in situations, in relationships that bruise and scar.  For so many of us, life becomes a bleak winter of lacklustre, habitual behaviour, where we respond like laboratory rats to cues that trigger the reward centres in our brains, numb to the call of our bodies, the weeping of our souls. Pinned on strips of green felt, like jewel-winged butterflies, frozen in long-forgotten flight.

In her exquisite poem, Wild Geese, Mary Oliver extols:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

In our guilt-steeped Judaic Christian culture, we dishonour our instincts, cage the soft animal of our body. Inhabit only our heads, blindfold our eyes, oblivious to our own specialness.  From early childhood, we anesthetize our feelings; grow up, crippled by unworthiness, stunted by shame.  As adults we live captive lives. Senses dulled by the drone of the hive mentality, the tainted taboos ancient repressions. Too often we deny the jalapeño desire that heats our bellies, sets our hearts aflame.

Here is a poignant story, told by Antoinette Liechti Maccarone,  of an old Mexican woman whose husband lay dying.  Her granddaughter had come to assist her beloved grandmother with the rituals of bathing and preparation for the finality of his death. The old woman was terribly distressed at seeing her husband’s frail naked body. And her granddaughter asked, “What troubles you so, Grandmother?” Her grandmother replied, “My beautiful child, from our wedding night we kept our bodies covered from one another, always wearing our long cotton night clothes. I feel very sad now. He is such a handsome man even in his dying. I wish I had seen him fresh.”

And so we wait, we harness, we restrain our lusty natures until it is too late.  Freud believed that the Id lived in dark, inaccessible realm of our subconscious. It was Id that drove our archaic impulses, our unchained desires.  Rumi knew this voluptuous, dewiness of appetite, as he wrote, breathless, “There is some kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of spirit on the body. Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell. And the lily, how passionately it needs some wild darling!”

Many cultures have “inversion rituals” that overthrow the social norm. These manifest in the form of bawdy carnivals, gay pride parades. And so to unleash our desire, to touch the warm wetness of our own animal softness, we may need our own inversion ritual. A little transgression to encourage the seed of fecund desire to grow in the garden of our delicious delight. This may be as risqué as wearing no underwear beneath a silky dress, dancing naked bathed in moonlight, making love under the stars on the beach, licking melted chocolate from the soft hollows of the one you love…or staying in bed all day, decadently dining on strawberries and cream … Perhaps today might be  the right time, the  perfect moment,  to break free from  the trusses that tie us all to beliefs and customs that cover our smiles, hush our laughter.

What little transgressions can you conjure up to bring novelty and magic to your erotic nature…. what sublimely sensual pleasure, what wanton playfulness to nurture the red rose of your uniqueness and joy this new day?  Allow the lantern of  the imaginal realm to light the landscape of your unchartered desire.  Gorge greedily from the banquet of life, with shining eyes and hungry heart. Climb out of the window, and feel the moonlight caress your skin. Says Rumi,At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine. Breathe into me. Close the language door and open the love window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.”

This is dedicated to Sophie: May you step onto the path of your own incredible beauty. May you press your brave heart upon the loveliness that is you. Maria McKee sings Show Me Heaven

 

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