Saturday, February 4, 2017

On Courage

Courage is what love looks like when it is tested, by the sometimes overwhelming everyday necessities of being alive. Courage is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposition, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public... to show courage. Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future.


To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere, or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply; and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about - with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. 

Perhaps, this could be more accurately described as meeting an immense storm front, the squally vulnerable edge that overwhelms fearful human beings; and which seems to overpower us through various forms of helplessness like unemployment, immigration, cultural and/or technological arrivals that we feel we do not want to welcome. The waveform that overwhelms maturing human beings [or society] is the inescapable nature of our own flaws and weaknesses, our self-deceptions and our attempts to create false stories to place ourselves in the world. 

This immense wave is the invitation to give that self up; to be borne off by the wave and renamed, revealed and re-ordered by the powerful flow of a world rearranging itself before our eyes. Riding this wave is the hardest place to stay, to make a world of our willingness to risk ourselves - aware of our need to be needed, our wish to be seen, our constant need for help - and inhabiting that world with generosity, luminous vulnerability and intensity. We give up our wish for constant immunity, but gain a more robust life; not as trauma but as a necessary change of season. 

This is when the spirit warrior archetype enters consciousness; the ones who are prepared to ride the wave, without accepting any fear-based aspects of this temporary reality we call life. Spirit warriors see and acknowledge these fear-based realities; and are willing to fight for those who are unable to. They protest the issues that are detrimental to humanity's best interests; and create an awareness for those who may be beginning their spiritual journeys. 

Spirit warriors are intimately tied to a larger soul group. They tend to develop an immediate bond with the persons in their own soul group. They also feel as though they have known these people for a long time and perhaps, many lifetimes. They literally have millions of family members in their particular soul group. They have made numerous soul contracts with thousands of people; who come and go, in and out of their incarnations. They are here for a purpose and they have their mission; and all of humanity benefits from the work they are doing.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Solace

Solace is the art of asking the beautiful question, of our selves, of our world; or of one another, often in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments. Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.


Solace is the spacious, imaginative home we make where disappointment is welcomed and rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation. Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate wisdom to come to the fore, a part of us that already knows it is mortal and must take its leave like everything else, and leading us, when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing. 

To be consoled is to be invited onto the terrible ground of beauty upon which our inevitable disappearance stands, to a voice that does not soothe falsely; but touches the epicenter of our pain or articulates the essence of our loss, and then emancipates us into the privilege of both life and death as an equal birthright.

Solace is not an evasion, nor a cure for our suffering, nor a made up state of mind. Solace is a direct seeing and participation; a celebration of the beautiful coming and going, appearance and disappearance of which we have always been a part. Solace is not meant to be an answer, but an invitation, through the door of pain and difficulty, to the depth of suffering and simultaneous beauty in the world that the strategic mind by itself cannot grasp nor make sense of.

To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even more amusing companions for others. But solace also asks us very direct and forceful questions. Firstly, how will you bear loss? And how will you endure it? And above all, how will you shape a life equal to - and as beautiful and as astonishing as - a world that can birth you?

Solace is not an excuse for withdrawal from the fray, but as a quieter foundation on which to stand for a better, more spacious, more humanly generous way forward, holding to account those who are under the strange misapprehension that they are exempt from the losses and griefs that accompany a human life; and whose defence against their own ultimate and necessary losses, is to degrade and demean others in the name of political and financial success.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

On Rest

Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving; an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bull’s eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.


This template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving that forms the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe, to walk as we were meant to walk, to live with the rhythm of a house and a home, giving and taking through cooking and cleaning. 

When we give and take in an easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given.

In the first state of rest is the sense of stopping, of giving up on what we have been doing or how we have been being. In the second, is the sense of slowly coming home, the physical journey into the body’s un-coerced and un-bullied self, as if trying to remember the way or even the destination itself. In the third state is a sense of healing and self-forgiveness and of arrival. In the fourth state, deep in the primal exchange of the breath, is the give and the take, the blessing and the being blessed and the ability to delight in both. The fifth stage is a sense of absolute readiness and presence, a delight in and an anticipation of the world and all its forms; a sense of being the meeting itself between inner and outer, and that receiving and responding occur in one spontaneous movement.

A deep experience of rest is the template of perfection in the human imagination, a perspective from which we are able to perceive the outer specific forms of our work and our relationships whilst being nourished by the shared foundational gift of the breath itself. From this perspective we can be rested while putting together an elaborate meal for an arriving crowd, whilst climbing the highest mountain or sitting at home surrounded by the chaos of a loving family.

Rested, we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it, rested we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way. In rest we reestablish the goals that make us more generous, more courageous, more of an invitation, someone we want to remember, and someone others would want to remember too.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

On Love & Hate

As another calendar year draws to a close, normality as we know it is coming unhinged. For the last few years it has been possible for most people (at least the relatively privileged) to believe that society is sound; that the system, though creaky, basically works and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress.


We are entering a time of great uncertainty. Institutions so enduring as to seem identical to reality itself may lose their legitimacy and dissolve. The social and environmental horrors likely to be committed could incite massive civil disobedience and possibly disorder. It may seem that the world is falling apart. At such moments, it is a normal response to find someone to blame, as if identifying fault could restore the lost normality, and to lash out in anger. Hate and blame are convenient ways of making meaning out of a bewildering situation. 

Anyone who disputes the blame narrative may receive more hostility than the opponents themselves, as in wartime when pacifists are more reviled than the enemy. Racism and misogyny are devastatingly real in our world, but to blame bigotry and sexism for the repudiation of the establishment is to deny the validity of our deep sense of betrayal and alienation. It does violence to the truth. Such is the cost of preserving a dying story. That is one reason why paroxysms of violence so often accompany a culture-defining story’s demise.

The dissolution of the old order that is now officially in progress, is going to intensify. That presents a tremendous opportunity and danger, because when normality falls apart the ensuing vacuum draws in formerly unthinkable ideas from the margins. Anything becomes possible with the collapse of dominant institutions. When the animating force behind these new ideas is hate or fear, all manner of nightmares can ensue, whether enacted by existing powers or those that rise against them.

That is why, as we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force to animate the structures that might appear after the old ones crumble. We call it love. So, let’s start with empathy. Empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in this together. In what together? For starters, we are in the uncertainty together. We are exiting an old story that explained to us the way of the world and our place in it. Some may cling to it all the more desperately as it dissolves, but what’s done is done.

We as a society are entering a space between stories; in which everything that had seemed so real, true, right and permanent comes into doubt. For a while, segments of society have remained insulated from this breakdown (whether by fortune, talent, or privilege), living in a bubble as the containing economic and ecological systems deteriorate. But, not for much longer. Not even the elites are immune to this doubt. They grasp at straws of past glories and obsolete strategies; they create perfunctory and unconvincing shibboleths, and they have no idea what to do next. When even the custodians of the story no longer believe the story, we know its days are numbered. 

We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. A story that will ask: “What would it take to embody love, compassion and inter-being?” We see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: “What is it like to be you?”

It is time now to bring this question, and the empathy it arouses, into our social discourse as a new animating force. If you are appalled at the current situation, and feel the call of hate, perhaps try asking yourself: “What is it like to be a hated person?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the stereotype to find the real person. Even if the person you face appears hateful, ask: “Is this who they are, really?” We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. Let’s not make our opponents invisible behind a caricature of evil.

What is beneath the hate in our world? Why do we dehumanize each other? Hate is just a bodyguard for grief. When we lose the hate, we are forced to deal with the pain beneath. This pain is fundamentally the same pain that animates moral superiority. We need to stop acting as if we are better than others, no matter how broken they appear to be. We are all victims of the same world-dominating system, suffering different mutations of the same wound of separation. We live in a civilization that has robbed nearly all of us of deep community, intimate connection with nature, unconditional love, freedom to explore the kingdom of childhood and so much more. 

The acute trauma endured by the incarcerated, the abused, the raped, the trafficked, the starved, the murdered and the dispossessed does not exempt the perpetrators. We feel it in a mirror image, adding damage to our souls atop the damage that compels violence. Thus, it is that suicide is the leading cause of death in the military. Thus, it is that addiction is rampant among the police. Thus, it is that depression is epidemic in the upper middle class. Something hurts in there. Yet, we are all in this together. One earth, one tribe, one people.

We have entertained teachings like these long enough in our spiritual retreats, meditations and prayers. Can we now take them into the world and create an eye of compassion inside the hate vortex? It is time to do it, time to up our game. It is time to stop feeding hate. Next time we speak, can we check our words to see if they smuggle in some form of hate: dehumanization, belittling, derision... some invitation to take an ‘us versus them’ approach. Notice how it feels good to do that. And, notice what hurt still lies underneath.

This does not mean to withdraw from the social conversation, but to rewrite its vocabulary. It is to speak hard truths with love. It is to offer acute analysis that doesn’t carry the implicit message of: “Aren’t those people horrible?” Such analysis is rare. Sometimes, our evangelizing compassions veer into passivity. We need to confront an unjust, ecocidal system. Each time we do, we can stare hate in the face and never waver. We will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement; and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.