Embodied Spirituality

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It’s a great relief to discover that transcendence is not always a matter of overcoming of worldly limits via a flight to the heavens, or some other kind of transport to an off-planet haven in the skies. We can also discover great realms of freedom within, through careful attendance to bodily sensations, to the rising and falling of phenomena in this physical field – to the earth. We go beyond our bodies when we concentrate on breath, which enters and leaves through the portals of nose and mouth, which connect us to the world around us, to all else that breathes, from mice to whales to trees – and those who live in them …

Tawny Frogmouth

When we sense the breath of the earth, through our muscles and nerves, in our viscera, or the magnetic pulse of place, or the feeling of being home in a familiar landscape or building, or our connection to the ancestors that enabled our being here now, or the celestial intelligence that fires our minds, or the life of other beings and our communication with them (linguistic, symbolic, psychic, somatic – any way we carry out conversations in the Dreaming) … in any of these ways we can discover a sense of transcendence through immanence. Immanence is the direct path to experiencing embodied spirituality – something beyond the individual self, something greater than the limits of reductionist rationality is capable of entertaining, something sometimes more-than-human, connected to a greater sense of mind, which arises from within, keeping us aligned with Earth Wisdom (when we allow it) and Celestial Intelligence and all the other creatures between and around and within us.

ND Candles

It ain’t so hard. We just have to stick at it. See Part ii), coming soon: Practicing Embodied Spirituality.

Images: a rock wall along the Darebin Spiritual Healing Trail (story to come); a Tawny Frogmouth at CERES Environmental Park (story to come); candlelight in Notre Dame cathedral, Paris (i don’t have that much of a story from there, it’s just a majestic palace of worship, where the old Gallic Catholics bow in fervent and sincere prayer, priests incanting ancient rituals while shaking incense to the sky, billowing thin clouds of creamy smoke that rise against the kaleidoscopic stained glass windows in this otherwise gloomy, immense space).

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So what’s it all about then?

 

Abstract SG

 

I guess i’d better define my terms and honour the inspirations behind this blog site, before i go much further.

‘White Fella’ is a a term used for ‘new Australians’ by Black Fellas, which is what many Australian Aboriginal people proudly call themselves. You’ll note there’s no gender distinction; it’s a bit like the old fashioned term ‘man’ as used for all humanity. As a matter of fact, great and influential Australian anthropologist WEH Stanner’s collection of essays was titled White Man Got no Dreaming, which was a wry comment on the comparative poverty of our connection to the land (or ‘country,’ which has a very definite connotation of a place filled with living resonance and relationships amongst kin, both human and more than human). The idea that we have no Dreaming applies in some way to all modern people who are removed from that kind of kinship identification with the earth that sustains them – and sadly this means even those living right where their ancient forebears lived, if they have lost that connection.

Therefore white fella doesn’t necessarily connote Caucasians, or those of British descent, or western Europeans on the continent or displaced … it just means those who are not living (or who are now beginning to live) in deep connection to the land upon which they live. But for me, as a white fella, it can also mean that, because we live in a westernized world, a Hindu or Chinese wearing jeans and t-shirt, any shopper anywhere out for a dose of retail therapy, all those speaking and reading English and using this kind of technology – the kind I’m composing on and we are using to communicate with – we are all implicated in white fella ways.

 

The train - it always seemed such a symbol of western technology, following inflexible straight lines to the next trading post.

The train – it seems such a symbol of western technology, following inflexible straight lines mechanically to the next trading post.

 

It could have been different, but the combustible steam engine was invented in England, where there also happened to be a steady supply of local coal and a competitive market … and bingo. Now us ‘new worlders’ are a long way from our ancestral lands and we have a lot to learn. But how many modern people anywhere today are really in touch with the traditions that link them to the sacred, to earth wisdom, to celestial intelligence? How many Europeans still living in the same ‘hood where their ancestors lived, breathed and worshipped still ceremonially link themselves to their indigenous soul, follow rites to embody an animistic conception of the sacred, regularly get in touch with the pulse of the land and rivers and seas and trees and birds and animals around them, as well as to the stars above? In my PhD i traced this loss to the rise of large scale settlement civilisations – basically, the same story being told by many ecocritics, that the agricultural revolution changed our relationship to ‘resources’ such that soil and fresh water were now thought of as the basis for farming, trees became known for timber, the discovery of metals leading to open cut mines and so on. While we need to re-know ourselves as nature, we also need to redefine what we are prepared to accept as culture; and enjoying mutually sustaining relationships with the land and its other creatures is part of the redefinition project that i like. White fella dreaming draws from ancient traditions, but in a way that is true to self. A black fella once said to me, you’ve got to get your own dreaming back. This is my report, my thanks, my path back to the earth and the stars.

 

A billabong amongst the Henty Dunes, Tasmania

A billabong amongst the Henty Dunes, Tasmania

 

‘Dreaming’ is a term to help cover all these possibilities. Thinking up new ways, having vision and making that real, creating, or divining, or perceiving other worlds, whether asleep or awake; experiencing otherwise hidden realms behind or within this one/these dimensions, bringing forth and holding true what we find sacred anywhere (in the mind, heart, body or world), getting in touch with the creative force of the universe and staying there (thanks to Joseph Campbell on that one), finding responsive ways to mediate conflict or to evolve towards a higher synthesis of complexity beyond seeming oppositions … recognizing the underworld journey we all take beneath the veneer of this ‘ordinary’ reality every day; becoming something fresh and new, emerging transformed from the night, waking up to new realities where utopian potential hasn’t been erased or edited yet, where cyber codes rain down from the stars, where breath rises up through us from deep within the earth and from the rivers and the salt water and the sand dunes, where we give thanks to the trees and welcome kinship with the other creatures and live more free of unworthy concerns.

 

Modernist Refraction

 

White Fella Dreaming is a lot like all the ancient stories from everywhere but in new forms. Respect for the ancestors (that story coming soon), experience of the immediate sensory aspect of timelessness, embodiment of the unlimited spark, grounding of all that is and was and ever will be in self-aware primate bodies … breathe it in and let go into the Dreaming. All the time.

What is White Fella Dreaming Today?

Urban Grids

 Now that we have the cities, which suck so much power from the earth in order to provide the abundance of the eternal feast and the fuel for the pretty lights, what do we do next?

Go shopping?

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White Fella Dreaming stands for less consumption. It celebrates riches within, to remind people of the incredible abundance we already have and that we always had, the opportunity to live as self-aware primates on a rare and wonderful planet in a bejewelled universe of exploding star dust.

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White Fella Dreaming listens to the land and to the people of the land. The wise elders, who teach that we can all access the inner wisdom that also arises in the traditional ways – the intelligence of the earth and of the stars, of the other creatures and the voices (or ‘people’) of stone and wood, whispery air spirits and fluid water devas and fiery reminders of danger and endless power … gentle voices, explosive voices, swimming and flying and crawling and snuggling voices.

It’s time to find our way back to our own earthly wisdom and celestial intelligence. To our indigenous soul – at home right here and in the precious passing moments of our lives – and to whatever connection we retain to the eternal spark of life that manifests as us, in these bodies, in relation to all other creatures, with the responsibilities and freedoms this entails.

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The city grids of that first image above, for all that they try to flatten out the rough edges of life in a linear cross hatch (so much easier to navigate when you have something to trade), still follow certain primal principles of life. The kind we see in the leaf and the pattern of capillaries that shift the juices of life from earth to flowering tip, from a core to the peripheries, from a place of power to a place of nourishment.

Everything that comes to life seems to want to grow – until it dies. Once we are beyond our prime (or the flush of youth), we continue to grow – psychologically, emotionally, ‘spiritually’ – to embrace more of life, more complexity and ambiguity and intangibility, to forgive more easily and to incarnate more generosity. (The best of us remember that we have that kind of growth keyed in from birth; we remember that true human maturity begins to flower as soon as we wake up to life and that it doesn’t just begin when we want something, or feel that we have lost something worldly.)

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This is White Fella Dreaming today – transferring as much of our intent as possible from the shallow materialism of unsustainable consumption to the deep materialism of embodied spirituality, true to the earth and to its wisdom, as well as to the unlimited potential of celestial intelligence available to our minds, to the nourishment of fresh water and air, the wild beauty of the planet, the gift of friends and kin, the humble life-giving warmth of fire, the movement of dance, the contemplation of meditation, the joy of song and the immensity of art and the childish innocence of laughter (tickle someone today!), the warrior power of action in the world, the greatness of the ancestors, the deep currents of emotions and feelings within, everything everywhere, even in the folds of all the other dimensions within which we walk and talk and live and love and accept.

This is White Fella Dreaming today. Stay tuned for further updates.