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Relationship

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

Smooth Operator

African Baobab TreeAnd so it’s Christmas. You’re worn to a frazzle. The sleeping  herpes virus has awoken and painfully alerted you to its presence. You drive to the doctor. Then to the pharmacy. It’s nothing really in the great scheme of things. A bit of discomfort, especially in the heat, this time of year.  But it’s something about yourself you don’t want to share on Facebook, or with your former or future lovers, or with your insurance company, advertisers, or the government – or leave hanging up there in the cloud do you? Well if you own a smartphone darling, it’s thank you for sharing.  You are leaving a trail of dots that can be joined. There’s nothing stopping the multi-trillion “Smart things” business now.  The internet lives in your wristwatch, the locks on your doors, your car, in your eyewear, in your phone. Our physical world is on the brink of morphing into a virtual one. We’re tiny frogs in hyper-connected water that’s hotting up.imagesW7IIH6N5

And yet in this interconnected world where we are all stardust, all part of the Great Design, what’s so ominous about being transparent? Is this Western need for individualization and privacy passé? An anachronistic foible of ageing Baby Boomers? A dinosaur in a quantum age?

Christopher Mims, science and technology correspondent for Quartz writes that 2014 is the year of the internet of things. And the internet of things will replace the web and tell us what we want – continually. No surprises. No spontaneity. It will moderate our lives, anticipate our thoughts and feelings – till we’re too dumbed down to wonder, whose life is this anyway? “The web will survive, just as email survived the arrival of the web.”  Science Fiction, Double Feature.  We are but players, joined by invisible threads that urge us to buy more stuff, that know exactly where we are and what we’re doing. We may feel important, special, seen. But there is a price to pay for our narcissistic  specialness.

BI prophet and founder of 9sight Consulting Dr Barry Devlin, writes in a recent blog post: “ The sad truth is that we have lost most of our privacy already, having entered into a Faustian pact to share, both knowingly and unwittingly, the details of our daily lives.”

images8KWPVDZDIt’s a trade-off. Like most things in life it must be made with as much consciousness and alertness as we can muster in our dazed and dazzled minds. At it’s best it’s a symbiotic relationship. At it’s worst it’s parasitic. In exchange for everything there is to know about our lives, Facebook and Google give us social networks and information we may find useful – or not .

“Even the acceptance that our smartphones report our location minute by minute is driven by a consensual belief that we may be offered a coupon for a nearby coffee shop at any moment. The payoff for ultimate traceability… Which aisle in the supermarket are you in? What about some very specific retail therapy recommendations? These, and other soon to emerge toys, have the addictive quality of sex to many of the current generation of CMOs and proponents of big analytics,” writes Devlin.

Dave Eggers’ The Circle: A Novel is chillingly prophetic in the same way that George Orwell’s 1984 was 30 years ago.  “The world has dorkified itself,” he writes about the insidious encroachment of technology in every aspect of our lives. Oh, but this is just a novel, he cleverly states up front. A chilling read and well worth slipping into your own Christmas stocking. Big Brother is watching us in our dorkified new world – every breath you take. Every move you make. Every bond you break … every time we use our credit card or phone a friend.

So step off the grid this Christmas. Meet those you love in real time. Embrace the spirit of Christmas with real hugs and real kisses.

Smooth Operator  songstress Sade’s molasses voice melts the world away…

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Mandolin Rain

Photograph by Sheldon WoodThere’s a feeling something is missing when someone who has touched your own life in some profound way dies. Like walking past a place where a great tree once stood. Or past a vacant lot in the middle of a city. Theres something unnatural about that empty space. We shrug or shudder as though a cloud has passed over the sun or a cold wind has curled its fingers into the fibres of our clothing. And although we continue to continue with our lives, things are never quite the same. New green shoots thrust upwards around the severed stump. A glassy edifice arises from the rubble strewn across the old foundation. We grow accustomed to the changes. Resigned. Stoic even. But theres a hollowness. Things are never quite the same.

The King is dead. Long live the King! In Myth and fairy tale the natural order was righted when the old King died and was buried. The new king sat beside his queen on the throne and the cycle of life continued once more.  Today in the world of politics there is no new king. No beautiful queen to sit beside him on his throne. Mandela has left no successor who can match his wisdom and stature as a statesman with a canny grasp of human psychology. An unruly rabble of politicians  remain to pick at the carcass of his greatness and capitalise on his legacy.  Mandela’s rich melodic voice rings out over 95 years of human history. He now sits in the hall of the ancestors and the sad sound of a mandolin plays in the rain of our tears. 

Fate and free will lift some men and women high above the heads of ordinary people. uTata. Iconic Father of a fatherless nation still struggling with narcissistic teenage growing pains. His image printed on T-shirts, cook books, mugs and posters. His long walk to freedom leaves footprints in the sand of collective memory.  We carry his greatness in our hearts and feel noble and dignified. Capable of magnanimous deeds and heroic action. Perhaps “freedom” means permission to behave like a prat and throw human excrement on the windows of public buildings; to own a Merc and wear bright-coloured designer clothing; or to sleep peacefully in your bed at night with doors images71895DSWunlocked and windows wide open. But, Mandela’s life has gifted us all with a glimpse of what is possible when we choose what true freedom can bring: Love not hate, forgiveness not revenge.

For some, his death brings with it a sense of relief that this Great Spirit has at last flown free from his frail old body to re-incarnate once more.  For some, his death brings a hiatus in the busyness of life and a time to reflect on a personal and collective history when the rabid dogs of apartheid ripped this beloved country asunder.  For some, this is a time to  grieve deeply personal  losses and mourn the death of this remarkable human being.imagesCABR67C6

Mandela. uTata. Mabiba.  Let us take into our lives your example of forgiveness. Let us lay this like a healing balm over the blistered sores of pain in our relationships with those whose behaviour we find so difficult to comprehend. Let us stand for just one moment, heads bowed, and feel the sprinkling of stardust from your Bright Star.

 

Bruce Hornsby & the Range performing Mandolin Rain.

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Hold On

Just when we think we have garnered peace and tranquility a wrecking ball shatters the structure of our life. Pulverizes all that we believed was “real”.windy-lion-johns_31422_600x450

We may discover we’ve been snared in a deadly trap of deceit and deception. Been blindsided by flattery or the heat of a lust we thought was long lasting love. We may find out that what we thought was real has been a mirage, shimmering in a dust storm of lies. We may acknowledge that we have cruised along on autopilot. Allowed entry to our life the very thing that liquefies our viscera, congeals the blood in our veins, rubs against our values. There are days when this world seems crazy, chaotic and unspeakably cruel. When we feel utterly alone. Terribly afraid. Rainer Maria Rilke expresses the sharp shards of broken glass despair so eloquently in The First Duino Elegy:

And so I force myself, swallow and hold back
the surging call of my dark sobbing.
Oh, to whom can we turn for help?
Not angels, not humans;
and even the knowing animals are aware that we feel
little secure and at home in our interpreted world.”

There are days when the bruises and scrapes of life sting and ache so much it takes an enormous act of will to come back into the quiet calm of our center. To disengage from a “game” that requires so much energy and defensiveness.  To change our interpretation of what happens in our life. To cease self-harming with thoughts that and flutter inside our aching heads, twist and turn like rusty knives inside our bleeding hearts. It takes a shift in focus, realignment in consciousness to begin to believe, behave, differently.

imagesCAF69KU2This may mean changing the way we perceive the past.  Seeing the behaviour of those who have hurt us as coming  from a wellspring of pain. Acknowledging this without smug self-righteous judgment flung out like a cruel harpoon, but with heartfelt compassion for the part we have agreed to play. This may mean searching for fragments of gold in the sinking dross of  old conditioning or circumstances. This may mean choosing to be grateful for the experience .  There is a sparkling jewel that glistens on the necklace of poetry that is William Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that’s gone.” Many of us carry for years the ashes of our sorrow in the heavy urn of regret. Those of us who have walked away from relationships with family members or lovers that were pickled in pain and negativity, left siblings or partners who are manacled by their own addictions. We may carry in our hearts survivor’s guilt, our days blighted by a sadness which is not ours to carry. Neale Donald Walshe says “Move forward with no second guessing, no guilt trips and no hesitation.”

Recreating a new life is a soul craft that requires patience, skill and compassion. Moving forward is an act of will. So is holding on. There is a Tibetan saying which goes something like “everything rests on the tip of motivation.” When we talk about compassion and loving kindness, we will also require motivation to change the energetic field in which we live.  To have the courage to be re-born, over and over again. Mark Nepo on Book of Awakening writes so beautifully, “Repetition is not failure. Ask the waves, ask the leaves and ask the wind.”

We meet the experiences, the inner learning, just when we need it. What we experience may come in cycles, so we can return again and again if we need to, and do it all at our own pace. I have a wise friend who describes this as doing the cha-cha. We take one step forward, one step back in time to the music. Until we decide to change the steps of the dance.dancing_feet_225

“We fall down as many times as we need to, to learn how to fall and get up. We fall in love as many times as we need to, to learn how to hold and be held. We misunderstand the many voices of truth as many times as we need to, to truly hear the choir of diversity that surrounds us. We suffer our pain as often as is necessary for us to learn how to break and how to heal. No one really likes this, of course, but we deal with our dislike in the same way, again and again, until we learn what we need to know about the humility of acceptance,” says Nepo.

So today, let us  be grateful to the wrecking balls that smash through the structures that no longer serve us.  Let us acknowledge the gifts that lie in the rubble of our lives and keep our steps light  when we dance the cha-cha. Let us hold  on to ourselves.

 

Hold On – Angus and Julia Stone

 

 

 

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Truly Madly Deeply

313834_1988220076323_1567958031_31512884_860394615_nThere’s been increase in interest in happiness over the years.  Is it related to demographics, to having more money rather than less?  Is our  happiness related to a sense  of meaning and purpose? Is happiness a transient emotion? Is it a matter of perception? Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness “(that) which we anoint with the word beautiful, alludes to a state that, on a psychological level, we can describe as mental health or happiness.

Some research hypothesizes that happiness is linked to the content of our moment to moment experiences. For centuries, spiritual traditions and hermetic philosophy have affirmed that human happiness rests in the present moment. We really don’t have to go anywhere to find the truth of our happiness because it is contained within the core of our whole being. At this very moment.  Our happiness is inherent within us all. Vanity Fair Managing editor, successful playwright, Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce gave her her 18 year old daughter Ann this advice: “for the moment the main thing is to get what little happiness there is out of life in this war-torn world because these are the good old days, now.” A year later Ann, her only child, died in a car accident.

So “These are the good old days now.” Forget the “bucket lists” (a trite term I have always found leaves a clanging sound on the tongue, especially when most bucket lists appear more like silver platter lists) Live life now. Each moment of each precious day.

On Christmas Eve BBC’s Helen Fawkes discovered she had incurable ovarian cancer. She made a decision to live the life she had always wanted to experience and discovered that “these are the good old days now.”   Helen’s “list for living” included getting a dog, moving to the countryside, exploring the ancient ruins in Rome, taking a speed boat down the Thames, having her book published, learning to play poker and seeing penguins in the South Pole. Externals which for Helen, hopefully  brought  her the happiness and fulfilment she was seeking.Penguin

Like happiness, what we hold dear to our hearts will be different for each one of us. It may take an act of will or the unlimited power of imagination to focus on the essentials and trim away the superfluous details that wallpaper the borders of our days. Turbulent emotions tear across our lives like tornadoes. They shatter our equilibrium and sense of calm. When we disengage from our addiction to melodrama and gossip, and treat ourselves with love and kindness we free ourselves of self-importance and the self-pity that clouds our contentment. When we focus on what is right, rather than on what is wrong, the world will mirror our state of consciousness. When we embrace change and let go, we live in the wonder of the unknown and release a spontaneous flow of Divine Intelligence into the material domain.

Psychologists purport that there are two essential human emotions: pleasure and pain and we respond to these through love or through fear. Love expands our energy field and fear contracts it so what we perceive as pleasure will be interpreted as happiness.

house burningOne way to bring our scattered thoughts to a midpoint of clarity is to imagine that an asteroid is hurtling towards our earth. All life on this planet will be irrevocably obliterated. What would be important then? What would define us? Foster Huntington reflected and defined what he truly loved and valued by  imagining the scenario of a burning house. He collected a few precious things and photographed them. Then asked others to do the same. His beautiful book is titled “The Burning House”. It  is filled with poignant photographs. A haiku that speaks of the uniqueness of our humanness and the vagaries of our selective perception of happiness. burninghouse_kate molins
So today, breathe consciously. Be deeply grateful for what you have right now. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Tell people you love them. And  celebrate the important things in your life.

“These are the good old days now.”

Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden

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