Communion with Earth and Stars

Singing up the new mythic paradigm means reconnecting people with more-than-human nature, on earth and beyond. Living this means remembering that we are born of the earth and of the sky, our bodies built from stardust scattered throughout the cosmos by explosions so immeasurably violent that they can swallow up whole planetary systems with nary a burp.

 

shutterstock_59987536-goldencosmos

From the start we are sky and land creatures, flying through space at a million miles an hour* while walking on land that seems solid and stable but we know is just another coincidence of continental plates, sea levels, tectonic shifts, ice ages … we live in the sweet spot, just now. But we are creatures of uncontrollable fire, too, true to our first home in the stars – unimaginably immense bursts of light and heat, burning gas in the night, a conflagration of potential.

And then again, of course, our ancestors first evolved in salt water, evolving over millions of years out of that amniotic fluid, replicating cells before arising softly from the sea, gulping in air as oxygen became available, stepping out for the next adventure.

 

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To do this – to sing up the song of the earth and the stars, the fire dragons and water devas, the archetypal guides and wise advice and flighty air spirits and everyday ‘down to earth’ advice so that we can learn to live at peace with our earthly existence – we need to build relationships with place. Because we are limited; we have bodies, which are breathed through by life; and we have appetites, hunger and thirst and more, which we must satisfy. We live as part of an ecology of limit – not scarcity, but of a biodiversity that cannot be reduced to sets of resources that we are free to tap and extract as if life on earth could just keep on sustaining us forever. We live in places that offer certain amounts of warmth and nourishment, relying on stuff (material and intangible) that needs to be shared amongst the creatures.

 

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All that lives feeds off all else. Sometimes that cycle is cruel and seems inhumane. But we are capable of mobilising an ethic of life that allows the universal feeding to be tempered, ever so slightly, to reduce unnecessary suffering. When we get in touch with our bodies and inhabit them as intelligent primates with appetites and a realistic appraisal of our capacity for self-control, we can co-create at least the possibility of whole system flourishing. Sometimes the gods of nature will laugh this off, of course, shaking parts of the planet free of humanity with a particularly vicious storm or tsunami, with fire and flood and earthquake and pestilence. C’est la vie. This doesn’t stop us from co-creating a kind of ecologically-informed biodiversity of life on this planet, working with the extended kin all around us in the soil and sky, in the waters that sustain us and in our technologically brilliant cities.

My last post was about the difficulties of pursuing this theme of being in deep dialogue with the earth, in the context of being a relatively new ‘white fella’ on land inhabited by culturally complex ‘black fellas’ who had identified with their ‘country’* for tens of thousands of years. I felt I needed to expand upon White Fella Dreaming, to build something more inclusive of my own innate embodied wisdom, to help inspire my community to share the same. The theme of Belonging allows me to keep practicing deep listening to the land – that timeless flow that takes on specific shapes depending on the place and the psyches involved in the communiqué – and to share this regardless of the politics of colonisation and appropriation that mark this particular point in historical time.

 

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My friend Caresse wrote to me after this post, wanting to check in that White Fella Dreaming, as it became the blog for Belonging, would stay true to that bigger picture issue: the one about being human, regardless of cultural history or conditioning, and continuing the ‘deep communion’ between us as human psyches and the spirit of the land and the cosmos in an interconnected evolutionary process. What a great reminder, of my core theme and of how good it is to be involved in communities that keep us on track.

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The theme of White Fella Dreaming, as the blog for Belonging, remains focused on embodied spirituality and dialogue between the human and the more-than-human on earth and beyond. Belonging will feature more workshops, as well as online courses, retreats, tours and other ways of helping more people get more in touch with their inner nature, which is flowing on the infinite sands of reality. And the work will always return to our dreams and myths: the powerful stories that connect us to what we find sacred in life, which is simply what we hold most meaningful in our hearts and bodies, in the precious jewels of consciousness and material being that we have been so fortunate to be born with. Boundless potential for poise and spiritual generosity accompanies us as we ride the flow of life. In peace, Geoff.

*This may not be mathematically accurate. But you get the idea.

*‘Country’ = the ‘spiritually enlivened cosmos’ of place in Australian Aboriginal ways (Debbie Bird Rose)

 

Belonging workshop, Saturday 10th October, CERES Environmental Park in Melbourne: bookings

 

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Kyrgios and Goodes – Australian sports, Reconciliation and Suicide

When an Australian tennis player gets roundly condemned for sledging an opposition player, no-one is going to be very surprised. It pains good sports that Australians have given themselves a name for unsportsmanlike behaviour; our cricket team is legendary for its sledging, taunting opposition batsmen consistently, prying for psychological weakness in an attempt to weaken their skills. It’s defended as part of the game and goodness knows there’s no point holding our breath waiting for gentlemanly conduct to return to the arena anytime soon. But it doesn’t reflect well on our humanity, all this undermining of others in order to gain advantage, and it needs to be condemned on behalf of a better society – one that enjoys sport for pleasure, for testing ability against another, for the pursuit of athletic excellence without psychological warfare.

Krygios

But the condemnation that will rightly meet this young tennis player’s bogan* outburst can also be channelled back into another opportunity to revisit what has been recently raised by Adam Goodes. Because where Krygios is simply uncultivated and uncouth – an embarrassment – and at fault, in the case of Goodes, we have the sportsman taking the moral high ground and the fans revealing their bogan natures. (In answer to the question, why aren’t other Aboriginal players booed on the field, the answer seems easy: Goodes is booed because he made public the racist undercurrent of Australian society. Those fickle fans who boo Goodes are shooting the messenger.)

Goodes

And one of the thing Goodes added to the conversation through the whole sorry saga was the plight of being an Aboriginal Australian in 2015. Not the frontier wars, which we bury under as much pioneering blather as we can, so that we don’t have to think about the way an entire race was decimated in order that the colonists could possess the land. That’s history, which needs to be better understood and further discussed; but this is now. The chronic health problems, the structural inequality, the grog, the unemployment – all of which are also being improved on the ground by creative programs spearheaded and managed by Aboriginal people themselves – this all needs to be talked about in the mass media, every day, until this land is healed and its people live in genuine mutual respect.

 

But there’s another problem, which has been increasingly haunting Aboriginal populations in recent years: the spectre of suicide. How do we respond to the suicide epidemic amongst indigenous youth – and, while I was in Western Australia recently, the suicide of a mother of an indigenous youth that had previously killed himself – right here, now, in Australia? (The story was reported here. I won’t publish the picture or name of the lady.)
We respond with compassion, first.
Then, with questions.

Why? This has to be the first question. What conditions, what kind of society do we live in, that could allow this to happen? This is taking the question to its radical conclusion, as well as down to its roots. Any suicide diminishes the community. It should be a rare occurrence, a final option only for the most bereft, the soul who has lost everything and just can’t take it anymore. We can then learn to let them go, with sadness, because we can understand. But when suicide becomes something that registers as a significant percentage of deaths in any community, we have a problem. This is now the case with Aboriginal Australians. And it hadn’t always been this way.

 

Aboriginal suicidesRates of suicide, Northern Territory, 1981-2002 – note dramatic increase in male victims.

So, as a wider community, as a nation, we need to talk about this. Why would a living member of the oldest surviving human culture on the planet kill themselves? What is missing in their cultural tool kit that leaves them open to this sorry demise? It’s a contemporary version of a ‘clash of cultures,’ of course; an ancient way of life forced under the yoke of modernity by people with new technologies, desire for ownership, and all of the Guns, Germs and Steel as described by Jared Diamond in his great book on global colonisation. But suicide prompts not just big picture, structural arguments that show how such situations arise; it requires a moral examination, a set of questions that also include how people relate to each other in everyday life. In order to improve the non-Indigenous population of Australian society – to be a better people, with more self-respect – we need to find more ways to show our respect for Aboriginal cultures and people, beyond admitting the story of colonisation behind modern Australia. We need recognition of the deep wisdom traditions that knew this place for countless generations, honourable and ongoing conversations about how things work here, how things are and could be.

To help stem the tide of suicide amongst Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders, let’s start by showing respect for their traditions. Respect for the land that sustains us, combined with knowledge about working it, rather than against it; extended understanding of kinship relations, which include all members of our community as well as our relations in nature; cooperation rather than competition. But we have to do this at the personal levels, enact it as more of a mainstream story in the media, not just on NITV (Channel 34, a great resource for all Australians) but also in the more commercialised channels of TV, film and other portals of modern story telling. Better than worrying about how much of a bogan one of our sports stars is; let’s keep building and telling stories of how rich, diverse and wise the Aboriginal cultures of this land still are.

For more information:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-14/youth-suicide-at-crisis-levels-among-indigenous-population/6543060

Info plus organisations designed to help: http://www.livingisforeveryone.com.au/Indigenous.html

*bogan: for international readers, a bogan is an Aussie term for a rough character, usually tasteless:

Urban Dictionary: bogan

Generally ‘dim-witted’, bogans are well know for having poor and vulgar language and typically found in rural areas or outer, lower class, suburbs. A male bogan can often be seen wearing old attire typically a ‘wife-beater’ (singlet), Australian rules football jumper, or a flanel shirt.

White People: Dealing with the guilt of colonisation – and responding with generosity

solar eclipse

 

Once upon a time, when I was in the desert of South Australia chasing (and catching) a full solar eclipse, I decided not to join the rave party nearby but instead enjoy a few cold beverages in town with the locals. Amongst these fine new friends was a large, hairy biker. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind me describing him thus. I can’t check and don’t even recall his name. It was just another half hour friendship, as that great folk singer Rodrigues sang about back in the 70s. But a funny thing happened that evening and I write about it now as the conversation has arisen again, this time in Broome, Western Australia.

At one point, I blurted out: “I just can’t get over the guilt of what my people have done to your people.” Did I mention my fleeting mate was Aboriginal? I wasn’t really sure how consciously I had thought about this before, but I was certain it had come up for good reason right then. Because somewhere, in the backs of our minds if not at the forefront, we all know we didn’t end up being modern Australians (or Americans, New Zealanders, Canadians, etc) by inheriting some just and fair deal over land rights. We are children of colonisation, with all that entails – the assumptions of entitlement to development, the religious colourings, the massacres and disease and benefits of more highly advanced technologies. Denying this won’t do us any good; the truth may be well hidden, behind vast reams of other stories, but once we know it exists we can never really shake its hold somewhere in our conscience. And if we want to be better people – happier, more comfortable in our bodies, feeling more at home where we live and work and travel, more consciously aware of our patterns and potentials – then lying to ourselves is definitely a barrier. So, out with it; I’m sorry about the way Australia was colonised, I’m not happy about the way I benefit from this with my mostly unspoken white privileges, and I wish it had been done differently, better, with more care, more sharing, more questions and compassion and understanding. For all concerned.

So there was my blurt and here was his deadpan response: “Get over it mate.” Um … OK. No further comment, from either of us. He didn’t feel the need to give more context – it’s the kind of comment that stands alone, that brooks no compromise, that sets the bar and then walks away, hardly even concerned whether I can jump it or not – and I didn’t see what I could add, subtract, hedge my bets against, conjure up or fluff along. I accepted it, in the spirit it was meant – the spirit of moving on, of harsh but real acceptance, of gruff forgiveness, of the recognition that we as individuals are not responsible for what went on decades and even centuries before, that we should be focusing on getting along right now, in the present moment, with its endless opportunities. Then he shared a piece of black glass with me, to watch the solar eclipse through. That’s a cool memory.

 

boab and beach

 

But I digress. Reconciliation. Between the people who lived here when our ancestors got here (the collective ones, the British and other western Europeans in this case) and us, the white fellas and other new Australians (and Americans etc). How do we deal with the painful history we know exists and move on, so that we are not shackled at the feet by guilt and remorse but not living in denial either? I’ve found a semblance of balance in this regard over the years and it’s time to share it. Because here in Broome, the other day, I met someone working in food sovereignty – helping locals in the community create wonderful vegetable gardens, promoting local produce, harvesting wild foods without compromising the carrying capacity of the land – who expressed her profound disquiet about exactly this issue. And it felt great to be able to help, if only in a small, seedlike way.

It goes something like this:

  1. Face it – the dark truths of colonisation, violent dispossession and all
  2. Sit with that for a while – if it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, it’s being repressed (again)
  3. Admit you benefit from it
  4. Position yourself in this life – you did not choose to inherit unfair privilege
  5. Recognise your relative power in this social structure – and your choice as to how you respond
  6. Rebalance, holding the spirit of generosity out in front of you, in your open hands
  7. Forgive your ancestors, and all who have gone before us, so that they can know peace (even if it is only in the depths of our own minds)
  8. Know peace – and spread it.

What this all boils down to can best be described in a kind of martial arts move: maintain your balance, as best you can, while you accept the incoming movement of this energy or force, realising that the knowledge sits all around you, especially behind, while in front of you, in your hands, you retain the capacity to respond with generosity, to know yourself as free, to give compassion and to be … more. Get over your guilt, white people, by facing it and going through it and coming out the other side. Otherwise, we perpetuate the cycle of inequality, of repression, of colonisation and its shame.

The Old Ones

100_7829Stone circle, Loughcrew, Ireland

 

Deep within our own codes – soul shapes and DNA – lie the memories of the Old Ones; the Ancestors who got us here, who survived the hard times, who inform our own behaviours and predispositions. At our best we recall them, give thanks, even revere the memory of these beings, who can be human but are also other kinds of inner guide, including the wisdom of cellular memories, which are informed by interactions between waters and salts and earth matter, by the evolution of animate life, by the historical play of light and darkness, by the creative spirits that lay down the paths across the land upon which we walk and breathe.

 

100_7845Petroglyphic carvings, Loughcrew.

We have our parents, theirs, and so on back to the ancients; European ancestry, Chinese, African, Native. These people got you here, so it seems only fair to respect their fighting spirit for life – it wasn’t always easy. But deeper behind this, who or what gave rise to them? Primates that came down out of the trees in the Rift Valley, evolved the opposable thumb, began to use symbols to communicate strategies to overcome their relative physical weakness in the face of the other giant predators; or who awakened as if overnight having been gene-spliced by another, more evolved race; who grew out of the swirling mud of the earth or fell from the sky, or both; and anyway, what about all the other animals and beings along the way? Didn’t the amoeba that began to divide and become more complicated give rise to more life from the oceanic abodes of earth’s earliest history? Ancestors arise from the cosmic soup, the swirling chaos out of which life emerged, in the newts and frogs and toads and salamanders closest to life between land and liquid; in the other mammals that teach us how to watch and listen carefully … the timid deer and painstaking owl, the insouciant yet speedy kangaroo or emu, the burrowing wombat or the roaring lion or the bull or cow or horse whose powers join ours in the flux of life.

 

100_8180Section of Sargon’s Gates, ancient Mesopotamia

 

All life gives life to all other life, in a co-creative dance of mutual support and, if we are open to it, lifelong learning. Trees emanate oxygen and we breathe it in; trees die and parrots nest in them; rodents eat acorns and butterflies feast on the bugs that live on the leaves; and as for fresh water … we are nothing without it. Even light, radiating out from the stars, the original life force, is part of the life and breath of our ancestry, as is the darkness that is its relief. The Old Ones, our ancestors, are everywhere, still, and they are also buried deep in the past. If we listen to the power of the stars, the wisdom of the animals and plants, the silence of the stones and the burbling of the waters, we can still hear new ways of thinking about current ecosystems. These stories are myths, in the best possible way – powerful narratives and symbols that are capable of tying us back to the great magnificence, reminding us of where we come from, what we rely upon, how much we love what we seem to be losing, how sad we need to be at the destruction of the earth, how much we need to then let go of that sadness and remember again our fortune, forever in a cycle of giving thanks and fighting for what is right and what supports more life …

 

shutterstock_69675613-sunOur local star, flaring with the stuff of life, light and warmth (if you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time).

 

 

I give thanks to my ancestors, the Normans and Celts who lived across western Europe, who eventually joined with the Anglo Saxons and other moderns to emigrate to Australia; to the ancestors of this land, who cared for it and lived on it and kept their ancient ways as strong as possible, while also remaining open to new ways when that became the most intelligent and sustainable option, who still work with creativity and tradition in dealing with the colonizing force of the modern west, just as native people all over the world deal with invasive forces from larger, more technologically developed societies; to the ancestors of the human race and to the other animals and plants who helped give rise to us, who give rise to themselves, who work in co-creation to support life even as they consume it, to earth creatures of all stripes and to the stars, the furnaces of life, the great, deep, celestial intelligence of light that fires our planet every day and drives cellular growth and wires motor neurons together so that we can comprehend and compute and cry and be awake and love and feel and think. I give thanks to the ancestors.

All of them.

 

dugong-hunters-150x150This image is from an Australian Aboriginal “Dreaming”, or songline, or country line (story to come soon).