Title Image

Author: Ingrid Hoffman

Crossing the Rubicon

imagesSADEG8BHCrossing the Rubicon was an act of rebellion punishable by death in the winter of 49 BC, when Julius Caesar defiantly led his men over the icy red waters of the Rubicon River towards Rome. So often in our lives we reach  our own red river, our own point of no return. There is an impetus that propels us to spur ourselves into the churning waters of change. And without hesitation or vacillation we must make that decisive choice. There is no question of stopping. No turning back.

When we start from scratch we make unambiguous choices in our lives because we have nothing more to lose. We are compelled through debt, divorce or disaster, to find a new way. When we bear down, irrevocably commit to a course of action, we set in motion a train of events that unfurl like the standard-bearer’s fluttering flag.

Choice is a spiritual gift. And when we choose to change the trajectory of our lives, we must trust our instinct, settle more closely into the warmth of our bodies, listen to the rhythmic beating of our hearts. We can accept or we can refuse our destiny. And even if this choice is a choice of insurrection that leads us to self-destruction, ultimately there are no wrong choices. We stand at the crossroads of two roads, and can only choose one to travel on. As poet Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both…”

As we traverse a monochrome landscape of black and white, right and wrong we will never know what it is like on the other side of the river until we have crossed over the water  and began to live that choice.Angel

The poetics of language add subtly to the word, choice. In Hebrew the word, “timshel” is translated as “thou mayest” or “thou shall govern or rule” which suggests a sense of opening a portal into something that requires us to step into the vestibule of change by our own volition. We take charge; we choose to take that step. Or we choose to stand on the bank and stare at the churning red waters.

By not choosing we allow others to decide for us. Submissive acquiescence is an act of choice in which we step out of the way and live other people’s lives. In choosing not to choose we dangle limply like mannequins, and go through the motions of living an anesthestised life that is not our own. The thirty pieces of silver that clatter heavily in our pocket remind us of the Judas kiss by which we betray ourselves when we choose old ways of thinking, hold on to old patterns, nail our own hands to the cross of mortification.

Like many of our great spiritual teachers,  the life of Jesus celebrates the power of choice. When he relinquished his will to God, not to the Tribe, he placed his trust in Divine Reason and accepted the inevitability of his crucifixion with the final words, “Father unto You I commend my Spirit. It is finished.”

imagesEGQW9A5XMost of us avoid choices because we fear taking charge of our own lives, and resist surrendering our will to a Higher Level of Consciousness, balk at the effort it takes to change our perception. Suetonius depicts Julius Caesar as being undecided as he approached the Rubicon. The crossing is attributed to a supernatural apparition.  Like Caesar we attribute our crossings to circumstances that “leave us no choice” or deftly assign our puerile acts of self-destructive behaviour to forces outside our control. We use powder puff words that cover the truth with rapturous excuses. We play bingo with our money, our relationships, our health, listen to others who always have their own agendas and world views. As we leave the room we let flutter, spent, to the ground like autumn leaves:  “I’ll try to”,  “I promise,” ….

Choices are both conscious and unconscious. They influence our tomorrows, and will keep us steady as we wade through turbulent waters of change.  Katharine Butler Hathaway wrote “the change of life is the time when you meet yourself at the crossroads and you decide whether to be honest or not before you die.”

The choices we make from our hearts and souls are Grace.  Events that seem unjust and incomprehensible may be Divine Intervention that we can only appreciate in hindsight when we have unwillingly unclasped the old and opened our hearts to the new.   And when we accept the consequences of our choosing, we begin to move again, one step at a time.

So often we seem to walk through the dark woods and find ourselves circling round to meet ourselves again at the same place. This time perhaps we will return to our starting point older, a little more conscious. Through soulful living we celebrate the delicate preciousness of this human experience. And through choosing again and again to breathe out, surrender and Trust, we  may have the courage to cross our own Rubicon River and make the journey Home.Photograph by Ron Azevedo,

The Sounds Crossing the Rubicon

 

 

4

Ash and Clay

images7DLRNA8RIt emerges like the first shy blush of the dawn. It sparkles, pinned to the luminous breast of the new moon. It arrives quite suddenly and unannounced, concealed in a swirl of dry wind that scatters a shroud of ash over our life as we knew it. It blinds us in the glare of a nuclear sky.

After years of “quiet desperation” we encounter the One who makes us feel alive, young again. A new love, bright with promise. We laugh and we dream again. In the eyes of our Lover, in the sweet swoon of his kiss we relax and gratefully fall into the unknown.  And in the delicious freedom of our free falling, we swing the wrecking ball through the shiny veneer of our marriage and watch as it swings in slow motion across the boxed up hopes and black bags of  disappointment.

“Finding ourselves” may leave a trail of destruction as sharp and black as obsidian.  Many of us will confront a terrifying Goliath who darkens the sky, throws his head back and laughs at our puny efforts. Standing small in his giant shadow we begin to wonder and doubt. Will we even like this Self we seek? Will be brave and strong enough to slough off the old ways, leave it all behind?  Who are we, anyway? A chimera? An ever-changing evolving experiencing of change and flux, decay and re-birth?

Most of us will meet the ambiguity and paradox within ourselves as it is mirrored back at us in our relationships. Most of us will wander through a labyrinth of contradictions where nothing stays the same and the relationship to ourselves, to our world, is constantly recreated.dancing_feet_by_lucidcarbon-d303tqs

Experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe asks us to  imagine what things are going to be like in 30 years. In 30 years, there’s going to be a person around who you might normally think of as you — but that person is actually going to be really, really different from you in a lot of ways. Chances are, a lot of the values you have, a lot of the emotions, a lot of the beliefs, a lot of the goals are not going to be shared by that person. So, in some sense you might think that person is you, but is that person really you?”

Neale Donald Walsch cautions that we “avoid the tendency to catastrophize.” That we stop worrying about all that could occur tomorrow, things that may never happen. And yet as we stand on the precipice of a life-changing choice and our hands are shaking and our hearts flutter and beat against the cage of our lives like the wings of a trapped bird, we do worry. It is part of our humanness to fret and to worry. We are hardwired to ask,  “what if ?” The impulse to “find ourselves” to “become” more than we are is the antithesis to “being in the now.” It strains against the shackles of obligation. It chaffs and frets as it paces round the constricting circles of daily routine.

images3ROV0UJNThe Complexity Theory proposes that our lives will eventually erupt into chaos before they settle back into a state of equilibrium.  And the longer we have chosen to stay in the gridlock of statis, the more violent and powerful the volcanic eruption may be.  Often we cling to the flimsy remnants of what was. We may leave an abusive and painful relationship and yet grieve its loss, even yearn to go back to the way things once were. We may leave a job, move to another city, end a friendship, and in our dreams and in the heavy ache in our heart, we always go back. In our grieving we are flung into turmoil, we feel we may drown in ocean of tears. We behave strangely; we try to delay our evolution through bargaining. We repress our grief or anxiety with medication, distractions and substitutes. We find comfort in the immobilised state that embalms us in the numbing ointment of our unhappiness.  And the longer we resist the longer we spin in every decreasing circles into the vortex of our re-birthing.

!cid_E11569390AA840BFB034316893AAE6D5@bells3PCLeaving Home is an archetypal experience. In myth and fairy tale, the hero who leaves his father’s house to journey through the wild woods must slay dragons, endure physical and spiritual deprivation, must wear the shirt of arrows in his struggle to fulfil his Fated quest.  As we separate from the matrix of our society, or  our  family, or uncouple from a relationship that no longer nourishes our spirit, we will discover those parts of ourselves we have buried long ago: our feelings, our gifts. what it is that we truly value. Like our original separation from our mother’s womb we must all face loss of innocence as we gain new experience in this earthly life. We  will bask in the warmth of love and suffer in the wasteland of betrayal. We will experience conflict and we will struggle as we taste the forbidden fruit and swoon in its sweetness.

 

Psychology is only now acknowledging what the astrologers have known for eons: in our struggle to bring back the lost pieces of ourselves are lives are often fragmented into chaos. We are propelled into a maelstrom of grief which shocks, terrifies and awakens us, so that we may sail to new world. Our hero’s journey towards individualisation may take many forms and come at different  astrological cycles in our lives. Loss and patient repair work are the warp and weft of the rich tapestry of life.“Through failures, symptoms, problems, we are prodded to renounce attachments, redundant now. With the breakdown of what has gone before, the possibility of rebirth comes,”  writes Marilyn Woodman.

Our inner call to renounce old ways, old attachments, carries with it no guarantee. We will walk through the vale of tears  and perhaps never find our Belonging.  Yet as Socrates said unequivocally, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  Our our soul’s purpose is to experience. And there are no Rights or Wrongs.  So often it is when we are sinking that we discover Who we truly are. When we can lift ourselves above the mortal realm and see our journey as a soul contract or an archetypal voyage of self – discovery we will be prepared for our journey. The sea will be dangerous. Clouds the colour of burnt bone will crush out the light of the sun. The  dark undertow will suck and pull at our little boat. And in the whirlwind and in the lashing rain we will meet our Divinity.

Australian poet andcartoonist, Michael Leunig, offers us the blessing of this poignant prayer:images2GSHA9GS

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 …
Milk Carton Kids – Ash and Clay

 

 

2

Delicate

images5UEHG1HCAnd  so it all ended with a whimper. An event “so scary that I’m giving classes on it,” said one astrologer with a keen nose for fear-based hype. The heralded Cardinal Grand Cross of 2014 did not bring the fireworks or big bangs predicted by many astrologers who warned clients to lie low, not to make any decisions. There were the usual political smoke and mirrors. The usual human  dramas. The ominous rumble of anarchy in the Ukraine. The ghastly spectre of yet another self-serving dictator in Russia standing on the bodies of those he has trampled as Putin struts and pouts. But for most of us mere mortals the astrology has spotlighted the need for some kind of internal shift. Tension, crisis, chaos, pain, is how we humans have evolved over the millennia, and many of us may choose (unconsciously) to “hit rock bottom” in our lives – illness, relationship break-ups, or the euphemistically-named “down-sizing”, all of which is change coming at us from the outside. Change thrust upon us through illness, divorce or retrenchment so often leaves us truly down-sized as we clear our desks and carry out our possessions in a small brown box.

FullMoonThe eclipse season began with a much publicised lunar eclipse on April 15th, and ended when she met by her consort, the Sun with a solar eclipse on April 29th, all celestial markers for new cycles of change in our lives if we are willing to do what it takes and stick with the programme.

We say we want to change. And there are times we truly mean it.  We begin new eating regimes, new jobs and new relationships. We find a new hairdresser. We have a make-over.

Change is a word that slips silently through the cracks of our over-committed, overwhelmed lives. We know the world around us is changing in a way that leaves us breathless. The delicate ecology of our Blue Planet is in a process of mass extinction. Forests are felled for the cancerous spread of housing estates, shopping malls, and factories that make more stuff for us to buy and throw away. Bees are dying; coral reefs now pale spectres of their incandescent beauty. Robotics are replacing humans. Without work we cannot feed our families. Yet, like laboratory rats in a frenzy of heated oestrus, we continue to breed more and more children. We want to change; we know our collective survival depends upon it. But we don’t.

For many of us “change” has no more power than a low-wattage light bulb to shine light into the dark corners of our personal lives.  Change means to make different, to alter, to modify, to transform. And yet, deeply rooted in the meaning is also a sense of barter – an exchange of energy or substance. Change, like love is also a verb. When we change something in our life, whether it is a habitual pattern of thinking or behaving, a job or a way of relating, we need to let go of something. Even if this means walking away from a relationship that has ignited our Victim, Addict or Rescuer Archetype or literally endangered our health or wellbeing. Change means no more excuses.  To change is to choose.

Most of us (unless we live in tribal communities or cower in silent submission in the shadow of repressive political or religious tyranny), choose the cereal we want to eat in the morning, the material we read on the internet, the lovers we invite into our beds. Most of us know, or think we know, that all evolution requires continual change and that life on this earth is a cycle of birthing and growing and dying. And yet when the Angel of Opportunity comes and taps us on the shoulder, we ignore her. We walk on by tenaciously clutching the bony hand of old behaviours and beliefs about the world. Every moment of every day we make choices – mostly driven by ghosts from the past that move silently through the chambers of faded memory. Thought patterns and behaviours with long dark cords that connect them still to the Tribal Mind are woven into synapses. We fret and chafe against the stifling cords that bind us to our pain. We stand, trussed up in our fears, our excuses, our hot-headed reactivity, our slippery avoidance, at the threshold of change which we say we want – but only on our terms at our own pace – and in a way that will not shatter the casing of our lives.

changingAs we cross the threshold into this new astrological Age of Aquarius and terms like “The Law of Attraction” or “The Field” become part of the common lexicon, we know that change can happen in a nanosecond. So our choices mirror our experiences, draw in our lovers, our friends. Our choices bring us those who prick our delicate skins with betrayal, acts of violence, greed or callousness. We can choose to forgive – not condone the behaviour of those who have wounded our hearts with carefully calculated actions that puncture but leave no exit wound.

Our spiritual teachers have been saying over and over again: Every thought creates form. Every choice has a consequence. Every thought, every emotion is an act of creation – there is no such thing as any activity of our mind or heart that is not an act of creation.  Our choices are enormously powerful. We can choose to accept things the way they are. We can choose to take action to change those things which can be changed. And we can pray for wisdom to know the one from the other.imagesBFG5DNXH

Damien Rice.  Delicate

 

5

Promises We Keep

imagesV8HRVETEMost of us are risk averse. Our caution may be an evolutionary adaptation that has developed over thousands of years and is hardwired into the ancient cells of our brains. And yet our relationships ripple with words with white wings that carry our hearts on the sweet-scented breeze of hope. In trust there is the gloriousness of feeling in harmony with others as our hopes and wishes align. When promises are broken, our trust tumbles into the lacerating wretchedness of betrayal and disappointment. Our business partner inveigles our money. Our lover leaves us for our best friend. A family member behaves abominably.

A babble of busyness oscillates noisily and drowns out the silence that nourishes discernment and considered response. Too rushed, too distracted to pause, or to consider the impact of our thoughts, or our words before sending them out via disembodied text or social networking sites. We  feel unheard, unvalued in those unguarded, entangled relationships that thread like filaments through the days of our lives.

We’re flippant and glib in our language today. “I’ll get back to you…” or the limp-wristed, “I’ll try to” … impotent projectiles that land without making a single sound. Yet they  twist and tangle thoughts and leave blue bruises on the hearts of those who wait in silence.

imagesPF52O4Y2We trust and yet the only thing we can be really certain of is the inevitability of our own death – and until we have experienced our dying, even that is an uncertainty. So we trust in past lives, or The Angels, or a place called Heaven where we will be greeted by our loved ones … we use talismans to allay our primal terror of annihilation, utter darkness of oblivion.

We will ourselves to trust.  Our trust must withstand the corrosive acid of uncertainty. The alternative is too terrifying in a world that is and perhaps always has been uncertain and precarious.  Writes Thomas Moore, “Imagine a trust in yourself, or another person, or in life itself, that doesn’t need to be proved or demonstrated, that is able to contain uncertainty. People sometimes put their trust in a spiritual leader and are terribly betrayed if that person then fails to live up to ideals. But a real trust of faith would be to decide whether to trust someone, knowing that betrayal is inevitable because life and personality are never without shadow. The vulnerability that faith demands could be matched by an equal trust in oneself, the feeling that one can survive the pain of betrayal.”

imagesUTPHBL1SSo we trust and promise and strengthen our spiritual mettle to withstand the inevitable slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Promise comes from the Latin, pro (forward) and mittere (to send) so as we guarantee, commit, pledge, honour, to send forward our desires or intentions out into the world, we promise. And when we promise we must trust. We trust the child minder to care for our toddler, we trust the mechanic to fix the strange-sounding rattle in our car and the pilot of the plane that transports us across great mountains and fathomless oceans, stitching space into hours and minutes.

Money is a symbol of  promise and trust. We place our trust in stocks and shares, we place our trust in our governments and The Reserve Bank.  In 2007 we trusted the banks to take care of our money.  “Bank notes are simply promises to pay,” says historian Professor Niall Ferguson “Money is only worth what other people will give in exchange for it… lumps of clay, silver coins, it all depends on trust, on confidence. It’s all built on Trust.”

Professor David DeSteno is the author of The Truth About Trust: How It Determines Success in Life, Love, Learning and More writes, At the most basic level, the need to trust implies one fundamental fact: you’re vulnerable. The ability to satisfy your needs or obtain the outcomes you desire is not entirely under your control. . . . Perhaps most pivotally and uncomfortably, however, trust defines our relationship with ourselves – the quality of the inward gaze and the tangle of dignity, anxiety, uncertainty, and conviction with which we hold it.” Trust and Betrayal are bedfellows. When the trust in ourselves tosses and turns on the divided fork of conscience, we sleep fitfully at night.

So when we promise, we commit to action or a new thought. And when we trust, we find our own North Star to guide us – our religious or spiritual beliefs, a world view that offers solace or a sense of meaning, perhaps. Perhaps trust is a gift that is given, never exchanged. We are all connected like precious pearls strung on a thread of trust. And when we trust we take a risk as we enter the portal of another soul-directed experience and gaze inward with the promise to accept with grace and courage, the outcome.imagesIMSTBJR8

Eleanor McEvoy – Promises We Keep

 

1

Beds are Burning

sad_manThe Fallen Hero is a tragic motif that reappears in myth and fairy tale. It’s a tale as old as time. Yet, for me, what is unfolding as the trial of Oscar Pistorius painfully progresses amidst a cacophony of speculation and the dull drone of gossip is an ancient pattern that has existed for eons in human consciousness. It is the story of the Scape Goat.

Leviticus 16.22 says The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness…

Historically, it was the  reviled and exiled goat that was the sin bearer. The goat that carried away the matted filth of the tribe. The goat that either was cast out into the wilderness, or ritually slaughtered. Its blood cleansed our sins. Its unclean remains were burnt outside the boundaries of the community.  In other tribal traditions it was a human being who performed this sacred ritual of sacrifice and collective atonement.

The Hebrew term for scapegoat is translated into English as meaning roughly for absolute removal.”images9QTHCACG

Jews, blacks, Aborigines, women, homosexuals have been scapegoated for centuries. Those who appear to be weaker, different or who threaten the status of the community, set apart from the tribe. Sporting heroes, politicians or celebrities who fly too high and singe their wings are scapegoated in modern times. Scapegoats are tormented in our neighbourhoods, schools, universities, and in offices where people are singled out for bullying and harassment.

In the old eye for an eye paradigm, where power is externalised, “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” to quote Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight. Often the scapegoat begins to scapegoat others to purge the pain and rage of powerlessness.

There is something paradoxical about this once shining beautiful youth who carried the hopes of his countrymen so high on his young shoulders. Oscar Pistorius to me is the “maimed” scapegoat, like Oedipus with his deformed feet, or Hephaistos who was born deformed, he is living in a  society where there has been history of scapegoating. Where there is a scapegoat there is often a feeling of collective powerlessness and great will to power or great rage perhaps deeply buried.

According to a bbc report, a neighbour of Oscar Pistorius found the South African Paralympic star praying over the body of Reeva Steenkamp as she lay dying. Recalling the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2013, Dr Stipp said he had heard gunshots and after making sure it was safe, went to help. When he got to Mr Pistorius house, he found the athlete kneeling by Ms Steenkamp, with his left hand on her right groin, and his right hand – the second and third fingers – in her mouth. There is something symbolic in this ritualistic rite perceived through mythic eyes. Self-loathing, victimisation, a compensation for the pain of being the impotent humiliated victim? Often the scapegoat begins to scapegoat others to purge the pain and rage of powerlessness. Sometimes the scapegoat is the healer-redeemer who believes that if they can save others, they will redeem, rescue the scapegoated part of themselves.

Victim and persecutor live in the same magnetic field and like metal filings attach themselves into the shape of an archetypal pattern. Our own feelings of being scapegoated are projected out onto others. We notice the outer “reality” though the magnet is hidden.eclipse-5exposures

In this haunting hall of mirrors, we all must confront something dark and hidden and ominously destructive that is externalised as “the enemy out there” and carry the shadow of the collective.

The trial presents an archetypal tableau with all the elements of a Greek Tragedy. The Cast of Characters themselves carry the pattern of Scapegoat. And perhaps we need to ask ourselves who is the Scapegoat in this courtroom ritual which will indelibly affect the lives of so many:  the young blonde victim, the black woman judge, the Afrikaans male athlete.  If we look more deeply we may see the magnet. Perhaps by our own vicarious engagement in the events that painfully unfold we will be brought to another level of compassionate understanding. If we can see through the “evidence” precided over by Judge Thokozile Masipa and glimpse the more subtle shades of a more layered composition.

There is no facile solution for this tale as old as time reminiscent of ghastly witch hunts and bloody genocide. We may be physically powerful, have enormous wealth, yet we shelter behind security fences and carry guns because we perceive power, like beauty and wealth, as being external. Murder, sanctioned in warfare, is outlawed in suburbia.

SAFRICA-TRIAL-PISTORIUSPerhaps Oscar Pistorius is not the freakish Minotaur  or victorious Blade Runner. Perhaps he is both Victim and Persecutor. Perhaps he is one of us. We will never know what activated the trip wire in the often stormy and competitive relationship (symbolised in their individual and composite chart astrology) between Oscar and Reeva. Was this the old story of Samson and Delia? Was Reeva the persecutor or the scapegoat? Or was it Oscar? How are we the persecutors?

Paranoia, frustration, fear of abandonment, critical words that land with barbs in our soft and tender spots…when we are triggered, each one of us will act out of the reptile brain without the logos or the temperance of the cerebral cortex. When we see ourselves as inherently powerless, the phallic potency of the gun is a lethal weapon against those we fear or wish to harm.  If there is a scapegoat there has to be a persecutor – the High Priest, the Judge, the Emperor. Someone we choose because they are identified with the collective values. So, to preserve the stability of our society we must suppress, exclude or destroy those things which threaten the stability and the status quo.

Freud spoke of the Superego. The Inner Judge who passes judgment on our transgressions and has a stern moral code. I imagine that collectively we have judged and found guilty, as we ourselves are guilty of thinking and speaking and acting in ways that have caused others suffering. As the evidence is presented in the trial, the scales of balance will be tipped and justice will be served according to the law of the land and her people. And in this fallen hero and the cast of characters that play on the stage of this tragic drama, we may see our own faces mirrored there darkly.capricorn mask

Midnight Oil – Beds are Burning

How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning
How can we dance when our earth is turning
How do we sleep while our beds are burning

…The time has come …

 

 

4

In Your Dreams

Tyra Nur AthirahIn the psycho-energetic model of the universe, our thoughts create our own reality. Yet still, many of us live between two mind-sets.

One, our “ego-self” asks, “if our thoughts create our own reality then why do we not heal ourselves in a millisecond? Why do we experience a crisis of meaning in our lives and wonder whose life is this anyway? And if we can summons our soul mate by Cosmic Order what happens when our ‘dream lover’ turns into a real person? Did Cinders really live happily ever after with her Prince Charming?”

The other mind-set, our Wise Man or Woman within leaps joyously into the magical realm of the non-ordinary world with infinite possibilities. We co-create miracles.

The Law of Attraction claims that “like attracts like”. So what you focus on – “positive” or “negative” will bring you “positive” or “negative” results. Denounced as pseudoscience by many, the concept that we, as mere mortals, create our own reality has taken root and flourished since it was first planted in the early 1900s. A plethora of books followed the movie The Secret (2006) and the book (2007) with its numerous add-ons: Money and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Health, Wealth & Happiness.  A recent offering from Pam Grout on the same theme is E-Squared (a Fifty Shades of Grey for spiritual dudes, i.e. holy without the fuck.)  Its popular appeal has hoisted sales and it is billed as a number one New York Times best seller.  Ms Grout echoes the current create your own reality belief: “What shows up in our lives is a direct reflection of our inner thoughts and emotions”, she writes. The hairy underbelly of this, of course, can be taken too literally: “if you end up paralysed in a motor accident, find you have TB or cancer in that dark shadow in your lung, you created this reality.”  And for some, this assumption may unleash the Hound of the Baskervilles baying guilt, fear and judgement.

girl in bowlE-Squared also fits the current model of things that can be measured, proven by “experiment” in linear time. So like the new app on our Smartphone that measures and quantifies our sexual performance (number of thrusts per minute, noise level, etc.) we measure and record Miracles.  A masculine model of a perfect world. According to Ms Grout, you can demand an unquestionable sign that a field of energy exists. You can also impose a deadline for your demand. And within just 48 hours you will receive a gorgeous handmade leather purse, a free ski trip to Lake Tahoe, or meet your dream lover. “According to physicists there’s a zero point field… where every possibility exists. For example, there’s the possibility you could be a ballerina, another that you could be a U.S. senator. Still another possibility is being a bag lady in Haight-Ashbury,” writes Ms Grout in her street-talk’n breezy style. And yet …what are the chances that the child of a heroin addict mother living in the slums of Detroit will be a U.S senator? Or a midget can be a top basketball player?  Can you be a ballerina if you have cerebral palsy?

Are we naïve or arrogant? Perhaps blissfully oblivious to the deep unconscious currents that will inevitably wash to shore those disowned parts of ourselves? Yet there are many who believe that if we can will it into being, visualise it, wave our magic wands, our prince will fall on his knees and ask us to marry him, our teenager will stop taking drugs. Perhaps our neighbour’s son won’t come home from school to find his father hanging from the rafter.

Many people on this earth still feel as powerless as our ancestors once did when they faced natural disasters, illness, or invasion. The “you can create your own reality” mind-set certainly has empowered, granted hope, released magical energy that has been suppressed by centuries of patriarchal (Saturnian) religious and state decree.

Perhaps the Miracle is within the so often harsh “reality” – it is up to us individually to sort the gold from the dross. Are we ready to move from the Magician Archetype into the Archetype of the Alchemist?  And if we are Alchemists in the laboratory of our own lives, are we aware that all transformation demands a dying and a death? That alchemy is a painstakingly slow and putrid process.

imagesQ7LH2PFKCollectively, we are going through seismic change reminiscent of the 1930s and 1960s and this may manifest in events that shatter the foundations of our personal lives. We will witness world events that crack and break open hoary old structures, new technology that transports us into the twilight realm of sci fi.

We cannot construct a new model of thought without homage to the old. The ancients believed that only the gods could Create. That it was Fate that toppled empires. Tossed small ships upon jagged rocks. Snapped off the promise of a life, without any mercy. If you believe that with self-reflection and intention, we can all at some level, edit or remake the movies that play across the screens of our minds; that we can temper the flame of our desire; receive new experiences without anxious expectation or urgent grasping, then perhaps we can coax a change in our perception of the experience of chronic ill health, loneliness, death, betrayal and loss.

For eons, spiritual traditions have taught that it is acceptance, surrender to All That Is that brings us the peace and happiness that is truly powerful. For eons, shamans and mystics have crossed over the threshold into non-ordinary states of being. They have walked in miracle and wonder. Poets, musicians and artists still visit that holy place of mystery. So do little children. Our world would be drab and prosaic place without magic and miracles and hope…imagesWP1XGI16

So, to engage with this new paradigm consciously is to question ourselves honesty. Do we really believe that we create our own reality? Do we believe in Miracles?  Do we embrace the non-ordinary realm with a child-like innocence, a wide eyed expectation of a Miracle? Perhaps we must work consciously with both the Magician Archetype and the Alchemist to co-create a reality that embraces the bitter sweetness of this life. For me it is not either/or – but both the dream and the co-creation of a reality that brings peace and wonder and joy-filled acceptance of those things we cannot change. I do believe in Miracles.  How about you?

330px-John_Singer_Sargent_-_Carnation,_Lily,_Lily,_Rose_-_Google_Art_ProjectFrom the album In Your Dreams Stevie Nicks

Images by  John Singer Sargent and  Tyra Nur Athirah

 

3

The One I love

images954O6GS6This one goes out to the one I love.

As cloyingly sentimental or overtly commercial as this celebration may seem, Valentine’s Day has survived world wars and financial crashes. It has evolved from rumbustious fertility ritual origins enacted by the Romans. Emerged from the gruesome torture and execution of men we now call saints and martyrs. On February 14th in most places on this earth, millions of people will demonstrate through chocolates, music and flowers, their longing to love and be loved.

Romantic love is celebrated in song and literature. It’s a multi-million dollar Bolly-Hollywood illusion that mirrors our collective longing back to us from the silver screen. The glittering grandeur of star-spangled romance leaves us breathless, aching for more. Love lives in the imaginal realm of our soul. It emboldens and ennobles, plucks us out of our literal life into the full-throated drama of our emotion and our fantasy, flings off our inhibitions, invites us to create a-new.

We’re cautioned that Love is an illusion. I believe that like Santa and the Easter Bunny authentic love comes to only those who truly believe. “Illusion” is derived from the Latin, “in ludere,” which is translated as “in play.” And when our world-weary souls expand in joyful play, our lives are graced with “illusions” that may enfold us and protect us from “reality” which may be a mere stand-in for an authentic life.

imagesP8PZ7MQVScientific research purports that love lies in the brain, not the heart; that lust has lodged in our brains since Pleistocene era. That passion can be measured and scanned. The premise is that love shape-shifts from a coat of many colours into a knobbly old cardigan.

There are theories that suggest it is body odour that draws us to our lovers. That when we fall in love it’s more about fertility – and our collective survival.  So men are drawn to fertile women with perfect waist-to-hip ratios. Women will lust after high testosterone men with angular jaws and wide shoulders. That we fall for healthy symmetrical faces unblemished skin and pouting sexually aroused lips. What airless little boxes we would live in if this were true.

Psychoanalysts have their theories too – when we “let fall our hearts” and tumble into Love’s terrain we enter the domain of lunatics. Those in love have a similar profile to those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, they tell us. Other currently favoured theories suggest we seek to find in our lover what we did not receive in our childhoods. It could be the raise of an eyebrow, his smell, the sound of her voice or the curve of her shoulder. In love we seek the familiar. We nostalgically yearn to reclaim the past … So our adult years are a ceaseless quest to recapture the love and attunement we did not receive from childhood caregivers. So we say we’ve found our soul mate, or met again from a past life. Perhaps we have. There may be a sense of recognition or a soul connection that defies the tick in the box.  Scientists say it is oxytocin, the bonding hormone, that we must honour each wedding anniversary. And this Valentine’s Day, it’s the delicious dopamine drenched cocktail that brings lovers together. So is romantic Love merely a chemical like Prozac? Do we blame dopamine and serotonin for luring us time and time like hapless moths to swoon and die in passion’s flame? It’s the caudate nucleus of the brain that lights us when we fall in love. Or can be something far more mysterious, more nuanced, more subtle? Love opens the windows to those parts of ourselves that may have lain hidden and dusty for decades. It initiates us into the complexities of being human. It anoints us with courage and jealousy. It brings us unexpected endings. It mangles and cracks open our calloused hearts.imagesP1C7LALQ

Love in all its splendid visitations is a Mystery. Can we categorize and quantify and measure Love as our bodies soften and our hearts unfurl in a thousand blossoms? Can we fear that which captivates our soul? Love’s landscape cannot be measured or quantified by the intellect. Its nuances must be imbibed through the heart. Savoured with all the senses. Love cannot be separated from the rich loam of the imagination. And each one of us will experience Love quite differently.

So  expect to be moonstruck by the primrose-coloured light of the full Leo Moon on Valentines’ Day. For those of us who have known even one Great Love this life time… Aren’t we the Lucky Ones?

Rosie Thomas sings enchantingly, the one i loveimagesO0BLJOIQ

 

6

It’s The Little Things

images3FMBX3H7How do we prepare for those things that impale us on the sharp horns of dilemma? The challenges that test our endurance and spiritual mettle? When someone we love is dying. Do we fly across continents to hold their hand? Do we wait and go to their funeral? Do we leave our marriage and hope to find lasting love in the arms of another? Do we resign from our well-paid job and back pack across Asia?

We wouldn’t embark on a trip through the Namib Desert without water. We wouldn’t apply to appear on Survivor without knowing how to light a fire, or volunteer to nurse in Haiti unless we’d honed our nursing skills. And yet blithely we wing our way through relationships, marriages, careers, parenthood and the  process of  ageing and dying, so often with very little competency or application. “Experts” proliferate offering scratching’s of undigested knowledge unseasoned by experience or wisdom – they thrive in a world that venerates the quick fix, the easy answer. Suddenly the wolf is at our door and how he huffs and puffs and blows our straw house down.

 “Sweat the small stuff” says astronaut Chris Hadfield who claims to be annoyingly optimistic and buoyant by nature, but writes eloquently about the power of negative thinking in his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. His maxim and one that has saved his life and the lives of crew members, is to anticipate a problem before it becomes a calamity.  “Spend time visualising defeat and figuring out how to prevent it.” His take-action, attend to the details (meticulously over and over again) approach to life is one that pioneers, athletes and those of a competitive nature use to achieve the results they desire. Counterintuitive behaviour, deliberate team work, helping others in competitive situations, learning from mistakes and importantly, seeing criticism (even of the most personal kind) as helpful, are all tactics he uses to perfect performance and cope with the vicissitudes of life.

images6WMFZVJNPreparation for departures and new journeys requires focus.  Contingency plans can reign in wild panic.  The combination of focused thought, visualisation and action can help ease our passage through the stormy waters of change, or bring a sense of personal triumph. When we find ourselves in times of trouble we know how to reach down to that still calm place within. To override the primitive response of our old brain. Like practicing a fire drill, or a resuscitation procedure that stays “in the muscle” of our memory, it helps to have a plan of action, a sequence of events that grounds us in the moment. It helps to find the epicentre of calm amidst calamity.

Mercury travels Retrograde from February6th till the 28th, a cosmic in-breath and a timely reminder to focus on the little things and “be prepared”. Mercury rules  all forms of transport; agreements and all means of communication, especially gossip. It’s domain is business matters, postage, vehicles, mobile phones, cars and computers. So cross the Ts and dot the Is. Back up, re-charge and repair. Attend now to the details we so often brush aside like crumbs as we rush on to the next thing. Practice that Cinderella virtue – patience.

Professor Randy Pausch, in his Last Lecture, delivered  months before he died of cancer, says with lightness and great humour, “Another way to be prepared is to think negatively. Yes, I’m a great optimist. but, when trying to make a decision, I often think of the worst case scenario. I call it ‘the eaten by wolves factor.’ If I do something, what’s the most terrible thing that could happen? Would I be eaten by wolves? One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.” imagesAW6N17E3

Everything in our magnificent Universe is in constant motion. “Not to decide is to decide. Try not to make choices by default,” says Neale Donald Walsh.

Calm methodical preparation increases our discrimination and tones competency and discernment. “All things are ready, if our mind be so,” the Bard said. So be calm. Make preparations. Envision your journey and be grateful for all the little things that dust our lives with joy.

It’s The Little Things – The Gothard Sisters

Chris Hadfield An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

 

3

Out of Reach

_72148568_9cec5944-2377-4fa5-97ed-deb0a0ca2518Like the shimmering wing of a dragonfly, a sliver of silver juts out of an ancient sea of sand.  It’s the wing of a DC 10 that casts a long shadow across the tawny sand of the Sahara. A delicate silhouette of an aircraft encircled by dark stones and 170 broken mirrors marks the place where the white hot fire of a bomb of terror melted the bodies of 170 men, women and children on September 19th, 1989. It’s where Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc and others have marked the place where the ones they love have died.

Guillaume was twenty-six years old when his father Jean-Henri boarded the UTA flight 772 in Brazzaville. The flight that never arrived in Paris. For Guillaume and so many others this monument etched across the shifting sands has been a quest for peace and for justice that has consumed eighteen years of his life. As the ghosts of grief haunted him, he lost his business and his marriage. But the memorial to his father and all the others that died then can be seen from Google Earth and from the aircraft that still fly over this vast sea of sand. And although the desert will irrevocably draw into its hot belly the debris of the plane and the 170 broken mirrors, his act of grieving has been given form. Though the pain of loss will be there, I suspect, for as long as he lives.

Closure has been assimilated into the common lexicon. Like the admonishment to “move on” after a devastating divorce or the loss of something we cherish like a precious pearl and keep enclosed in the chambers of our heart. Closure means to bring something to an end. A conclusion. Like lowering a coffin into a grave and shovelling lumps of soil on top. Closure is often accompanied by a gaggle of shoulds and ought-tos that suggest that closure is something we can order like a new app on our iPhone. Closure implies that grief has a time frame, a sell by date.  And that in our grieving, one size fits all.

imagesCA334DAJYet despite our best efforts and our bright smiles, we may find that we can’t fix grief or sew the frayed ends of grief together neatly. We can’t superglue the jagged cracks in our hearts. Grief seeps under the door at anniversaries. And stays over the holidays like an uninvited guest. It makes itself at home when we hear a certain melody or smell a scent that reminds us with a sudden sharp tear at the sutures of time, that our hearts are tattooed. Our loss is indelible. The one we love is out of reach, disincarnate. The only link we have is the silver cord that tugs at our heart. A reminder of what we had, what we lost. The temptation to return to the place of suffering is a siren call, for the rocks are jagged and the waves engulf us and suck us back with the undertow. So we straighten our spines stoically. Or invite Grief in like an old friend to brings us news of the one we love.

Pierre Francois Ikias’s 14-year-old brother Fleury le Prince was on that fated flight. “You wouldn’t have thought that 18 years on, the shock would have been quite so palpable – but when you see the destruction, the pieces of aeroplane scattered around, the seats, the remains of people’s luggage – the emotion grabs you by the throat. Unfortunately my brother’s body was never found, so this journey was my way of grieving. While we were there, one of the drivers of the convoy found a human skull, which we buried on site. For me it really was like saying goodbye and burying my brother.”imagesCAGAMZXV

Says psychologist Stephen Grosz in his book, The Examined Life, “I’ve long thought that Kubler Ross was wrong. The “psychological stages” of dying and grieving are wholly different. For the person who dies there is an end, but this is not so for the person who grieves. The person who mourns goes on living and for as long as he lives there is always the possibility of feeling grief.”

Perhaps part of our experience on this earth is to experience a multitude of emotions. In the turbulence of confusion and the broken shards of loss, the human heart opens into its nobility. This is the potency of the soul’s response to Love.

And yet, for some the only way to lance the boil of grief is to plot our revenge.  To shrink and harden our hating hearts. To get back at those who have harmed us, an eye for an eye. Blindly we stand in the harsh glare of our loss. In our pain we spin the wheel of war, terrorism, holocaust and suffer still.  Revenge is like drinking rat poison and expecting the rat to die, writes novelist Anne Lamott.  It’s a poison that prolongs our agony. Embalms  our grieving. There is no closure in revenge. Peace remains elusive, out of reach.

458015_386439001400355_1291352053_oSays Stephen Grosz, “We want to believe that the clairvoyant can bring our dead back in to the world of the living. Closure is just as elusive – it is the false hope that we can deaden our living grief.”

So in grieving perhaps there is no closure. No great literature, art, or music would exist if it were not for grief and suffering and the transcendent Grace of Love. As we bargain, beg, rage and rail against the brutal inevitability of endings, our wails become poetry and sweet music. The salt from our tears softens our hearts. In our grieving we build a monument to Love.

Gabrielle’s beautiful rendition of Out of Reach

Read the full story about this memorial that can be seen from space.

4

The Chain

463px-We_Can_Do_It! January is a month of fervent resolutions and brave new intentions. A month of planting seedling new habits that require careful tending to take root.  Shakespeare wrote that “The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  Yet our morning rituals settle over our lives bringing a sense of comfort and continuity in an often chaotic world. Our habits frame the frayed edges of our days and wrap the weeks together seamlessly.

A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Most of us spend most of our lives cruising along on autopilot. Self-destructive habits keep us chained to the rock like Prometheus while the hungry Griffin picks and pecks at our liver day after day: negative thoughts cycle round and round like vultures over the carrion of the past, repetitive behaviours that harm our bodies and sabotage our relationships. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying that “insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So often pain, physical or emotional, is the fuel that burns away our inertia and creates a new sense of momentum in our lives. But it takes willpower and heartfelt intention to break the chains that bind us to the past.

We are not the sole creators of our reality. Would it were that simple. Millions of human beings endure cruelty and abuse, are taken hostage, imprisoned, scapegoated. But when we can see in the often fated challenges, opportunities to awaken to the fierce flame of our Higher Self, we unchain our potential to heal and realign our energies.

It takes kindness and compassion to look around our personal space and acknowledge that we have chosen the clothing we are wearing, the food in our refrigerator. On some level we do choose our partners, and our friends. We choose to love and we choose to feel happy. We do have the will to change and befriend our belief about the world we see. And it is will that ignites the fierce flame of power.  It is will that breaks the chain of “have tos and shoulds” that cloud our connection to our own volition.images2J2ZP8HQ

Psychologists who still work on a mechanical reductionist model of the world see a linear, causal curve for making and breaking of habits. New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business proposes that first there is a cue – a trigger for a certain routine. Then the routine – the behaviour. Then the reward. So when we can diagnose the cues, witness our routines, we may be more conscious of why we keep doing. And change the behaviour. Our willpower and self-control are like muscle strength writes psychologist Jeremy Dean in Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick. Willpower varies from person to person. According to our emotional state and even our energy levels during the day our willpower muscle will tire of pushing and straining. And when it does, we will be more susceptible to gorging on chocolate or having that midweek glass of red wine, or saying something harsh to our partner, despite our best intentions.

What if  changing our habits is more about self-love than muttering mnemonics to prompt us into new ways of cruising on autopilot? What if habits hide our Light, though we wear them like the garments that conceal the bodies of nuns or priests in certain religious orders.nuns

Perhaps habits belong to the realm of the heart. Perhaps they wander like itinerants through the crowded landscape of the mind? Perhaps changing habits is more about stillness and a dignified refusal to be part of the momentum. At least until we can access what gnaws in the darkness of our gut or makes us reach for a cigarette or turn on the telly. We might ask ourselves what our habits serve. What they cover in the folds of familiarity: the feeling of loneliness, invisibility, the  pain of our submissive silence?

Many of us see power as outside ourselves – the Universe, or the gods or the angels will tell us what to do. We seek guidance from others which may cloud the voice of our own true self and exempt us from the terror of our own responsibility.

Perhaps the human heart is far more complex than lab-rat behaviour in its many-splendoured manifestation.  Perhaps habits are about congruency and a deeper sense of purpose.  Perhaps habits will flower from the tap roots of discipline. If we are willing disciples we can fix our fluctuating feelings and will ‘o the wisp whims to a desired outcome, a larger purpose. Perhaps habits are about a commitment to our heart’s desires not our pained egos that fear the radiance of living too gloriously, too fearlessly. More about staying in authentic communication with our True Selves.

Perhaps it’s our heart that will perceive the true path for our journey this New Year. And the task of our Will to honour that path and stay in  communication with our True Self.

Private Moon by artist Leonid Tishkov

Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

private moon

1