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.

 

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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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How Celestial Intelligence and Earth Wisdom work together

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When you look up at the stars at night, you can feel your soul called by something higher, something free of worldly desires and attachments (the things like wealth and fame, which so often draw us away from our hearts and the appreciation of the most valuable things in life, like love and the simple comforts of adequate food and water and shelter). The little things that beset our daily lives can fade away and be replaced by our birthright, the sense of wonder with which we entered the world, the childlike reverence for just being in such amazing company, in bodies, with stars in the night sky and trees and birds and hills and rivers to gaze upon and walk within during the day. The wisdom of the stars – the great story they retell every night, encapsulated in countless systems of astrological lore, the constellations of timeless tales reminding us of how to live right in temporal and physical circumstances, how we can modify our destructive tendencies according to the better potentials of our personal tendencies, how to find accord with the songlines of the universe – this is what I am calling celestial intelligence. Reminding us of who we are and can be and come from – the great explosion of life in the universe, the fire lit in immeasurable, countless, unimaginably vast galaxies and stars and planets; and us, so lucky to have arisen here in human form, like the Mud People of the Hopi* emerging from the soil of life and looking about and breathing in and giving thanks.

 

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Then comes Earth Wisdom. Where the stars at night teach us openness and vastness, freedom and expansiveness, the earth asks us to be true to this place and its limits. I don’t use the word limits here in a pejorative sense. I mean the realities of life, which comes with death written into its original agreement, as we lease these bodies from the biosphere; which requires for survival clean water, fertile soil and fresh air; which punishes anything that destroys its own habitat, whether that be elephants eating out all the grass in a good year to find none left for its expanded herd in the following season, or humans overexpanding in their own technologically developed ways. Earth Wisdom is absolutely unforgiving and therefore utterly clear (although we can erect barriers to it so effective that we can momentarily convince ourselves that it is not so, that we can enjoy an eternal feast in the halls of immortality – a falsely optimistic tale now becoming undone after a blindingly brief amount of time, mere centuries, a moment in the oceans of eternity). Earth Wisdom asks that we engage in and develop relations with all our kin, the other life forms on earth as well as immediate family, out to the other tribes in a planetary network of fair trade, the other animals and plants and rocks and rivers, all of whom are known as people in so many beautiful, traditional cosmologies. Earth Wisdom asks us to look at the small things, the grains of sand on the beach or in the soil outside the home, the little daisies poking their heads up out of the grass, the grass itself, perennial as love, the terrestrial teachers such as lizards (so patient in the patch of sun on the rock, awaiting the fly), the fish who take advantage of currents to roam the oceans and seas, sometimes returning to their place of spawning as if magnetized by life, the sea turtles doing the same, the way clouds form and drench us with life giving rains, the way this turns to storm and rends our cities with death and destruction under certain climatic circumstances.

 

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When we instill our acceptance of a life of earthly limits with a sense of endless awe we can live in harmony with the greatness of the universe. This is what the combination of Celestial Intelligence and Earth Wisdom offers.

 

*Mud People of the Hopi – yup, that’s another story …

Images: 1. Milky Way over desert. 2. Mud Head Kachina from the Airzonan Hopi, Honolulu Museum of Art; photo by Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. 3. Lichen and fungi on a wet rock, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania; photo by author.

Practicing Embodied Spirituality

After introducing the idea of Embodied Spirituality recently, i promised to begin to ground it in some actual ideas about how such a thing could be practiced and experienced. When it comes to actually finding a way to experience transcendence while still firmly in the body, I have previously mentioned breath meditation. You can find my introduction to Zen here, if you are interested; it isn’t limited to that particular practice, although that is what I wrote it for (as a member of the Melbourne Zen Group). It’s just a set of simple instructions to help get you sitting right for a meditation practice in general (the stuff on posture and the point of meditation will probably seem most helpful).

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Part of what I think is important about any experiential awareness exercise – this includes mindfulness, which I may discuss in more detail some other time – is what I call ‘synching in.’ I like the play on words, because using this term reminds me that I am both sinking in to the body and to its intuitive awareness of the world around me right now, and I am getting in synch with that world. When I get this flow right – breathing just so, nothing forced, allowing myself to become more deeply aware of being here and all the subtle sensations that often go unnoticed during everyday life – I can also pick up on other dimensions of my experience.

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In this way I can experience immanence, which as I wrote earlier is a more ecospiritually attuned form of transcendence. I’m not looking up or out to some external agency that I hope may help or even save me. I’m looking in, for resources that may enable my abilities to dissolve challenging circumstances – and this means I am often looking through myself, to the more-than-human forces that are active behind the façade of persona or the toolbox of ego. To get to this place means I have to get to know my mental patterns and habits fairly well, so that I can catch the little games I play that maintain my identification with more ordinary states of consciousness, and move on from them when they limit my awareness of deeper levels of self.

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Because I need to attend to such habits, this practice is not always pleasant or easy; and it does not always lead to a feeling of freedom, overcoming or transcendence of worldly limit at all (in fact far from it). Sometimes I may end up crying myself to sleep and needing to let myself be sad (aka depressed) for a while. Telling someone that cares about me often helps at this point, although I am usually more inclined to simply wait it out; not because of some over-imagined sense of independence or fear of burdening others, but because I find such times so close to who I am that I sometimes find I can even cherish them once they have passed. And at other times, this kind of subtle attention to the endless realms accessible through going within leads to the discovery, reconnection and/or building of relationships with guides, guardians and allies that I meet in dreams or these kind of meditation experiences. Such relationships can be ritualised so that these powers can be called upon – silently, not always consciously – as we go about everyday life. Either way, I get to deepen my relationship to other dimensions of the self, whether that seems personal or more-than-personal/transpersonal/archetypal/ sacred or other.

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Part of what can help at these times is the memory that in many traditions, especially native wisdoms of those who live in close relationship with the rest of nature, all life sings. As such, even when parts of the self are in conflict, each part belongs, or finds a home, within the extended psyche. Myth relates powerful stories about such relationships, through conflict and diversity and harmony and transcendence, as a set of models we can use to experiment with transformation. The kind of transformation I am most interested in developing on behalf of White Fella Dreaming is from the limited story of self we are conditioned to accept by modern consumer society to the deeper sense of self we can discover and support that works in alignment with Earth Wisdom and Celestial Intelligence.

Images 1, 3 and 4 purchased from Shutterstock. Image 2 is my photo of the passageway leading in to the central chamber deep in the heart of the magnificent mounded dome at Knowth in Ireland, certainly one of the most impressive megalithic sites in the world.

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 …

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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.

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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).