Wild Minds; healing, dance, storytelling, wisdom and community

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I just spent the weekend at the second annual Wild Mind gathering. This event is filled with workshops and presentations that engage participants around themes very familiar to this site: the interconnectedness of human and natural worlds, the empowerment of the individual in a setting of wisdom traditions, and conversations amongst this wondrous more-than-human world.  I was very happy with my offering, as i got to tell White Fella Dreaming stories around the campfire on Sunday night. I think i have discovered the perfect setting for my work; the same one utilised for the building of culture since the dawn of human consciousness. With no script or even much of an agenda other than to share the spirit of this work, i drew on Joseph Campbell’s ideas of what makes a successful mythology and leaped into how we could find this innate within each of our souls, as well as learning respectfully from indigenous traditions such as (and especially!)  those of the Australian land.

What a rich ride it turned out to be. An appreciative crowd, with an appetite for stories that embed us more deeply in the sacred nature of the earth, in the majestic spread of the cosmos, in our humble, wonderful hearts. Thoughtful questions and comments allowed us also to explore a couple of areas in particular the prevalence of a sense of shame amongst modern westerners. This is not an area i have worked very thoroughly, so the excursion was welcome, especially as it was raised by my great mate Nic Morrey, an experienced integral psychotherapist. My initial response came from both my own personal experience and my understanding of the history of civilization. For me, the context of the agricultural revolution behind all large-scale societies introduces the depersonalisation of nature, as it sets human industry up as the master of the environment. We channel the waters with irrigation to increase crops and increase the mating habits of domesticated animals in order to profit from thee activities. In turn we build cities with the surplus energy, which also must be stored, creating a need first for walls and then for armies. The goods must be protected.

The_walls_of_Babylon_and_the_temple_of_Bel

Humans being intelligent and perceptive creatures, we sense the unevenness of all this force, the danger of stepping out of our former place as hunter-gatherers living in balance with the rest of nature (or at least in much closer contact and with mush more respect for its limits!). Early agricultural societies even performed guilt rituals in light of this recognition. Like many members of a colonising force – a new Australian who profits, whether i want to or not, from the subjugation of the misunderstood indigenous inhabitants of the land – i have felt it necessary to examine my feeling of guilt about this violent appropriation. But that was some time ago and i have healed that wound. Today, i love my own soul, as a person born on this land, seeking more and better ways to live in touch with it and to spread respect for the First Nations peoples who still live here, as well as for their ancestors and for mine.* But Nic pointed out that while this history of depersonalisation could be healed, the prevalence of a sense of shame in modern individuals requires a systematic, or at least well thought through, response. For him, there is an archetypal pattern being worked through in each of us, from original connectedness, through a necessary rupture, and back to a consciously negotiated peace settlement. This would equate to an evolutionary path, which works much like Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, through an antithetical force to a higher synthesis of complexity – which is my favoured definition of evolution. (Nic used a Vedic metaphor, from originally blissful Brahman through Shiva the Destroyer to the Shakti power of Divine Love. I’ll leave it to him to correct me if i got him wrong on this!)

As another friend James O’Brien pointed out, this is another way the myth of Genesis can be read; as a “Fall” into consciousness, out of the original Garden of Paradise, which forces us to work our way back to the Divine though hard work. I can’t help but always remind us of the very agricultural nature of this metaphor, though, which returns me to my original thesis about cultural and historical context …  and around and around and around we go. Wherever we find ourselves on this spectrum of possibility, we have to deal with it somehow. And my sense is that healing is always contingent; that we must revisit these wounds, within ourselves and our world, whenever we are faced with them, so as not to turn a blind eye to the ongoing suffering they cause when unattended.

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There was so much more going on in this fireside session of story-telling and across the whole weekend. (For more see here) What a rich way to spend some time, in the company of so many inspiring people, all working towards the same sense of community, supportive in times of need, evolutionary in focus, awake to the riches within the self and the earth, dancing freedom and holding space for the way we work with limits and love in sometimes trying times. Here’s to many more Wild Minds!

*There was also a fantastic workshop by Simon Thakur on Ancestral Movement. Simon’s position on ancestors is the same as mine as outlined here. I’m going to have to write soon on the ideas he is working with: that we embody all other creatures, and in fact aspects of the entire evolutionary process, in our own bodies. The obvious result of tapping in to these ways of moving is that we discover new levels of empathy with all life. Exciting work! Another highlight i want to write up that includes very similar ideas and experiences: the Cosmic Walk. Coming soon.

Images: 1. Purchased. 2. “The walls of Babylon and the temple of Bel” by Drawing by Mr. William Simpson R. I., and published by Prof. Charles F. Horne – Scanned from Sacred Books of the East *Babylonia & Assyria* editorship by Prof. Charles F. Horne (copyright 1907). Drawing by Mr. William Simpson R. I.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_walls_of_Babylon_and_the_temple_of_Bel.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_walls_of_Babylon_and_the_temple_of_Bel.jpg. 3. “Bush in fog”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bush_in_fog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bush_in_fog.jpg

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7 thoughts on “Wild Minds; healing, dance, storytelling, wisdom and community

  1. great weekend Geoff…left us all with many questions…you almost got it in your summary with the Hegel/Vedic synthesis….was from connection (brahman-thesis) to rupture (shiva-antithesis) to repair (vishnu-synthesis)…which happens in all relationships whether it’s monadic, diadic or systemic in culture. I agree with you that each time we go through the cycle, we grow and evolve. So where shame fits in is in the rupture stage (antithesis), and to bypass shame = an avoidance of conflict and deep pain associated with our historical and meta-geneological victim/perpetrator righteousness within the self and in culture. So when we were talking about the fall, I think a modern white fella mythology MUST bring shame to the forefront…to go through it as opposed to around it – to uncover the gold – humility, similar to finding the gold in Anger – Invigoration, and the gold in Fear – Courage, and the gold in Grief – Connection…Unraveling Guilt, the combination of shame and fear as well as Betrayal, the combination of grief and anger are all deeply embedded in white fella consciousness and any mythology which leaves these emotional giants out, is going for superficial JOY. I was hoping you would bring up Lilith and ‘the other’ genesis fall story to open toward a resolution to the common misinterpretations of the adam/eve shame/guilt story. We are very much in need of pathways to repair shame and humiliation, and I agree with you that with added guilt, the fear in it stops the courage needed for further investigation both individually as well as collectively.
    Lastly…I’m not convinced yet that the repair = divine love, but rather just another step toward understanding divine love. I think divine love is the energy in motion which takes us through the great triad – connection-rupture-repair, and cannot be pointed at existing in one state/stage more than another.
    Great work Geoff
    Nic

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    • Great, thanks for adding and clarifying some points there Nic. I was hoping you might! This addition to the story definitely helps it to grow towards greater fullness. Looks like the next step would be workshopping ways of undergoing this process. Love, Geoff.

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  2. Thanks for the write up Geoff. It was certainly a rich experience and conversation. It reminded me of the introduction to Tim Costello’s book “Tips from a Travelling Soul Searcher” where he quotes the great South American advocate of the poor, Ivan Illich who was asked one day what he thought was the most powerful way to change society. Was it revolution or was it gradual reform through education, the economy and the ballot box? Illich replied that it was neither. Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change society, he said. Rather you must tell a a new and powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story. One so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, and even shines a light into the future so that we can take the next step forward.

    So to continue the conversation, (and sorry to keep banging away about it!) I’d like to pick up again the thread of the Western myth of The Fall.

    Like any good myth, this one has multiple layers of meaning. At one level it speaks to our sense of shame – that (as Brene Brown so eloquently puts it) we are not enough; not good enough, not rich enough, not beautiful enough, not poweful enough etc …. (insert adjective of choice here). Interestingly, this may be a relatively recent layer of meaning – post St Augustine. I’ve heard the Jewish scholars don’t read the Biblical account of the fall as being about Original Sin. Nevertheless, that sense of “not being enough” is very powerful in Western consciousness and calls for healing.

    At another level the myth speaks to our sense of alienation from nature. Here, I suspect you are right, Geoff, in linking this to the transition from hunter/gatherer to agriculture. No longer are we a part of the garden but we have to work the hostile earth with the sweat of our brow to extract a living. For the majority of us who live in the cities, we are even further removed from a sense of connection with the living earth. It would be truly wonderful to create a new story which could reconnect us to that feeling of being part of an abundant living planet.

    At yet another level, the myth speaks of our shadow, our capacity for both good and evil – creativity or destruction, love or hatred. This is so very very important. Marxism attempted to create a mythology which externalised the shadow onto the oppressive classes. Fascism’s myths externalised the shadow onto the “inferior” races. The flower-power movement of the 60s seem to have ignored the shadow altogether. Freud seemed to think it was all about the thin veneer of civilisation which served to keep at bay the primative savage nature of the inner beast.

    Interestingly this part of the myth seems to have re-emerged in yet another form in the new UFO/Alien visitation community (and on a side note, Jung speculated in the 1950s that the UFO phenomenon was a modern myth in the making). There are several thinkers such as Michael Tsarion who believe that humans were genetically altered by an alien race in the past to serve a non-human agenda, and that our propensity for fear, hatred and aggression stems from that alien intervention.

    Personally, I like the line from Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago where he speaks of the dawning realisation that he found in the Soviet prison camps that (paraphrasing) “the line between good and evil does not run between classes or countries, ethnicities or between rich and poor. The line between good and evil runs through every human heart.” This perspective, together with Jung’s insights about the nature of the shadow and the need for integration seem to me to be the best modern re-working of the old idea of Original Sin. What we cannot afford to do, however, is to disregard the shadow or to downplay its significance in constructing our new story.

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  3. I hope it is ok to open up a subject here that we have been discussing privately Geoff? Feel free to not post it until we discuss it further if you like 🙂

    On a different tangent to the topics above but perhaps connected in some ways, I would like to question the name White Fella. As a person I can tell myself that it has a connection to indigenous ways because indigenous men call themselves black fellas.

    As a woman I feel alienated and excluded by the word. In western culture the word fella does reflect gender. Also in my limited experience of hanging out with indigenous women I have never heard them call themselves black fellas.

    The word white doesn’t sit well either. We are such a mix these days.

    Is there a more inclusive name? I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Phoenix, that’s fine, i wonder about this too. I’m ok with asking these kinds of questions and examining the limits of any of our creative efforts; this is one thing academia trains you in very well!
      I too welcome others thoughts on the matter.
      For myself, White Fella Dreaming is just one aspect of a whole new suite of platforms, which include updating the Hero’s Journey for our times (making it more ecologically applicable, especially) and working with light and dark (applying my PhD to the realms of inner wisdom and transformation), amongst other things.
      And then, perhaps, i could open up the White Fella Dreaming project to some more specific female wisdom as a kind of alliance? I don’t know for sure; for now, i’m ok with it rolling along in this fashion and seeing how it travels. But i did think a lot about the phrasing (see earlier posts) and remain open to the play of meaning around gender/race/other aspects of the work.
      Thanks for offering the feedback.

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  4. Pingback: Wild Mind 2015 – shame is a gateway | Humans are nature

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