Archive for April, 2009

Life without Dualism

I am home sick with the flu this week – hoping it isn’t the swine flu. I watched Part 1 of Bill  Moyer’s interviews with Joseph Campbell called The Power of Myth. Joseph Campbell is a hero of mine. I would so much liked to have talked with him. The more beautiful the question, the more beautiful the answer – and I think I would have asked some beautiful questions.

One thing that was shown in the video was a photo of a statue of the Buddha with three faces, the serene center one and a male face on the right and a female face on the left. This was the first time that I really understood what is meant by the Middle Path. It isn’t moderation. It is living life without the illusion of separation. The three face are a statement about dualism.

The world is perceived as pairs of opposites, right and left, light and dark negative and positive, male and female, right and wrong, good and evil, God and Satan. The Buddhist maintain this is illusion. That the transcended truth is that all is one. This to me is right in line with the Druid thought of inspiration and the cycle of creativity. Beneath all form is consciousness. All of Nature (i.e. the universe) is made up of the same thing, consciousness. All of Nature is energy coming into form and out of form. Our soul is consciousness having a journey through time. When we reach states of trance, all sense of the self and of separation disappear. Time has no bounds. I have only glimpsed this level of consciousness.

So anyway, inspiration and the cycle of creativity is the very dance of life itself. In Druidry we have no beginning of the world or end of the world (or afterlife) myths. That is because we are concerning ourselves with the moment, with the divine consciousness within us and around us. And this consciousness, the sacredness in all things, does not concern itself with the temporal. It is timeless and it isn’t polarised.

So what is the practical use of achieving a state of being where individuality is revealed as  illusion? Acceptance.

Acceptance that all of Nature is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being is something that allows us to more fully engage in life. We aren’t so horrified at the horrors. Everything is part of the whole. We find acceptance that what we see as evil or bad or sin or negative is really just an illusion. It is simply Nature. We can let go of the label and the preordained reaction to things and focus on the relationship, which means we focus on the whole story, not just the little bit that is easy to see.

This isn’t simply to say, I will behave as a hedonistic nihilist. It is saying that I can escape despair over the “tragedy” of life by realising that everything is part of a greater process. Also I am not saying that this would allow me to just refrain from participating in making change. Life is Change and I want to engage more fully in the process of living life more fully awake as conscious as possible. So while I strive to see the interconnection of everything, to escape simplistic dualist thinking, I haven’t transcended Nature. I am still part of the tribe. I am still a human being with a human life to live and part of that life is trying to create a world that is more honorable. I still vote. I still lend a hand where there is need. Freedom from despair allows us to live more powerfully, to live more engaged not less engage.

So we strive to find the balance between seeking a consciousness that allows us to find interconnection and let go of the sense of self, and having to live a life worth living, one inside the tribe. This isn’t easy, but it is a worthwhile journey. If we can create a more peaceful more equitable world, the currents of dualism won’t be so strong. We will have an easier time finding the center. We can create a world where people will have the luxury of seeking the sacred in peace.

So this flu that I have; I see it as a force of Nature, an aspect of consciousness, of divinity. I am fascinated by it. I am finding inspiration in my sickness. This may sound strange but it is the truth and I am pleased to experience this acceptance and engagement in myself. All creativity is temporal including this body of mine. If I am able to maintain this fascination with the process of living and seeing myself age and get ill, then the process of seeing myself descend into death isn’t something to fear or despair about. It is simply Nature and all Nature is sacred, including death, including this amazing virus in my body. We are dancing the dance of life and death together. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

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Green burial

I co-led a Death and Dying workshop yesterday for the Maine Pagan Clergy Association. It went quite well I think. I did manage to go on quite a passionate rant about green burial. It is something I feel really strongly about. The issue for me is that my final act in the world, the disposal of my body, should be one of honor. I don’t see that embalming, which just fills the ground with pollution is honourable. Most caskets are filled with varnishes and synthetic materials. The head-stone and cement tomb in the ground are wasted resources as well. People will remember one’s grave site for as long as the memory of one’s self is in the consciousness of those we leave behind, as long as our story is still being told. The traditional burial with embalming, casket, and cement ground liner is a huge waste of resources, money included.

The average funeral in the States is more than $6500.00. That is more than three time Canada or Great Britain. Putting this burden on our loved ones is irresponsible as well as environmentally unsound. A green burial can be done for under $1000.00, most of the cost being the burial plot at a green cemetery. I want to be buried in a simple burial shroud of natural material and place in the ground without any environmentally unfriendly items. I have am trying to live a life honouring Nature, and trying to walk gently on the Earth. Death is completely natural so I want my burial to be natural. This final act should be one of simplicity.

Many people prefer to be cremated. To me this is also a dishonourable way of having our body disposed of. I don’t want my final act to be one of wasting more fossil fuel and polluting the air.

I feel that since I am a child of the Earth and I have spent my whole life taking from her, being fed, sheltered and clothed by her, the most honorable thing I can do is at least give back my body to the Earth so that the elements that make up my body are put back into the environment in a natural way. I want my body to decompose naturally and have it be nutrients for trees and plants. I want my body to be food for the next generation.

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Check out my friend Jim’s new Druidry blog. Jim is an excellent writer and passionate philosopher. A must read: http://druidry.radicalpolytics.org/

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As part of my work in Druidry, I work in prison ministry, sending letters to druids in prison here in North America. I teach and mentor individual and groups who are incarcerated. It is sometimes challenging work, but it is rewarding on many levels.

I bring up this subject as I have been corresponding with a large Druid Order in Britain regarding this topic. It is very difficult to get people to step-up to the plate and pitch in. I understand completely as some of the people I have written are not very “pleasant” people. One Saturday I received three letters – one from a murderer and two from pedophiles. Believe it or not, the letters were very nice. They were all sincerely trying to learn Druidry. as heinous as their crimes were, they are not “monsters”. This work has taught me that sometimes good people make huge mistakes in life. Sometimes people get so disconnected and self-absorbed, they lose all sense of respecting the boundaries of another and the boundaries of ethics set by the community. They fail in relationship to another person or persons and to the community. We all do this (to much more minor degrees of course) all the time.

So another thing that came up in my recent letter writing was “reciprocity”. What obligation do we have to others and the greater community? This is a very important aspect of Druidry and of any healthy relationship. We receive inspiration from others and it is our obligation to use that inspiration to fuel our own creativity, and then to gift that creativity back to the world. When I say creativity, I don’t mean just art. I mean the way we live our lives. This is what I call the cycle of inspiration.

Inspiration is just energy and hoarding energy isn’t respectful and it isn’t healthy. If we hoard resources, the energy we hoard isn’t helping anyone, nothing is changing, no progress is being made. If we hoard emotions, it takes energy to resist their expression and it holds our emotional development stuck in time. If we hoard calories, we put on weight. If we hoard our creativity, we dishonor the inspiration that was gifted to us.

When I think of the prisoners who have committed crimes that have victims, it is easy see to the failure to respect and maintain boundaries, or any sense of healthy relationship to their victims. They failed in relationship. They didn’t just hoarded energy, they stole it. It wasn’t gifted to them. Where in life do we do similar things, even if on a small almost unnoticable scale? Where do we fail in relationship? Where do we take without realizing we are doing so?

So to tie these different thoughts together, I need to introduce one more. This is something from the corporate world, Franklin Covey’s – Seven Habits of Highly Effective people (not an endorsement of any kind – it is all just common sense to me). The idea is “Sphere of Influence”. We need to expend our energies where we have the most effect. So many people get caught up in national and global campaigns without once looking at what is going on in their own community. Politics is a great example of this. Almost no one goes to their town meetings where budgets that directly influence their local community are voted on. So we need to live local and act local. We need to gift back to the community that feeds us inspiration. I think we have an obligation to give back to the same community or to the individual soul that has given us inspiration, or any other form of energy (fuel, shelter, food, positions of influence, etc).

I think we will always fail at relationship if we are not living locally, not focusing on our sphere of influence. As long as we can take without it being a gift, without gratitude, and without completing the cycle and gifting back to the community, we will alway be enabled to fail in relationship. We will not necessarily see the end result of our actions. Our victims will remain invisible.

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Finding our tribe

Last night I went to a benefit that my friend’s band was playing at (they were totally excellent). It was very funny as I thought it was a benefit for the gay marriage efforts. When I showed up there were a lot of crunchy hipsters there. I looked around and didn’t see anyone I thought was gay so I was a bit confused. It turned out to be a benefit for the medical marijuana efforts.

It is interesting how we all seem to find our place in society, all these different tribes. We have our own fashions and our own music. I was commenting to my friend who played that they should find a more punkish audience as their music has an edge to it. I love music with an edge. The phrase that came to mind was “cut by music”. I love it when music just slices right into the depths of my soul. It is amazing how sound can do that. The sound of rain on the roof this morning just moved right through me.

So anyway, we find tribes where we can express ourselves freely, where we feel we are accepted and understood. This is essential for us. Society should be a celebration of diversity, providing a framework where one tribe isn’t allowed to oppress another. Where fundamentalist are trying to ban gay marriage – society should not allow this. We have conflict and battles where one tribe cannot respect the boundaries of another tribe. They feel a need to dominate. This is human nature.

But we need not submit to the impulses of human nature. We need to balance out the impulse system with intellect and reason. The rest of the animal world, finds balance due to the intimate interdependence of the whole system. Humans have deceived themselves into thinking we can step outside of that interdependence. We think we are the inheritors of the Earth. Nothing could be further than the truth but because this reverberates throughout the human collective, it is so. But I think the deeper truth is, we are all just another tribe of animals living in a complex interdependent ecosystem. There is no “higher on the food chain”. That is a silly notion. What is higher, the lion or the ebola virus? Each tribe, species, and individual has a relationship to the whole, not just to the food they prey on. The mice chew the bones of the lion.

The idea of hierarchy needs to go. We allow hierarchical thinking to seep deeply into the mindsets of our human tribes – the end result being nationalism, fundamentalism, fascism, racism, totalitarianism, and all the other isms that don’t serve us well. By not serving us well I mean that we don’t have peace between nor within the tribes. We don’t find places where we can express ourselves freely.

I don’t have a solution to this issue other than to suggest we find our tribe and celebrate our self-expression. We need to pay attention within our own tribe and make sure hierarchy and cults of personality are not allowed to take control. And finally, we must give voice to the acceptance and celebration of diversity and equality for all, for every soul within our sphere or awareness.

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I spent an hour of so talking with my dear friend and teacher Bobcat via a video Skype chat. What a fantastic technology. Anyway, I always have a head full of ideas after speaking with her. Today we discussed death and dying and the role of clergy. I am not going to go into that in this post. What I was reminded of in our talk was just how much our way of seeing things makes all the difference.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? This is a brilliant question that clearly makes the statement, “the way we see things is a matter of choice”. Certainly our history colours the way we see things in life. However each moment is an opportunity to shift the way we look at the world should we choose to do so.

How do we recognize when it is a good idea to change the way we see things? The simple answer is when we are recognize we are not being led in life by our curiosity, and when we are not finding inspiration in the journey.

I keep writing and rewriting this post, trying to explain what I think about changing perceptions and choice. I think though I will just leave it today with these questions:

1. If you are not being led in life by your curiosity, why is that? What are the consequences for moving through life in this manner?

2. If you are not finding inspiration in life, why is that? We can find inspiration is in everything in life – in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the feel of our morning hot shower on our skin, the sound of birds or the conversations we have with others. It is all around us if we open to it. Inspiration comes from relationship. What is it about you that keeps you from finding relationships that are deep enough to have the flow of inspiration happen between your soul and another?

3. Life is perpetual creativity coming into and out of being, energy moving into form only to come apart again and then move into new forms of creativity. How are you expressing your creativity? How are you using the inspiration that comes into your life? What is holding back your creativity?

4. Where is your sense of wonder? What are the places in your life where you don’t have a sense of wonder? Amazing creativity is all around us. Just look at the amazing thing it is to be able to share and connect using this mind blowing thing called the computer! What causes you to cease seeing the wondering that is existence?

5. What about gratitude? How much have you cultivated this in your life?

I ask these questions to myself as well. This is part of the choice to find inspiration, stopping and taking the time to look at our own life, our own soul, finding those places in our own being that block connection. Inspiration comes from relationship and relationship starts with our own soul. The way we behave, the energy we put into understanding ourselves, the decision to learn from life, these are all choices.

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Finding Home

Last night we prepared part of our garden, pulling last years roots and adding compost. My wife planted peas this morning before work. So the new season of growth begins. And with this new season a new clarity is in the air.

I recently posted about becoming a farmer and this image is growing more dense, shadow thoughts taking form, possibility and potential shifting into reality. I have been contemplating the purpose of home. We as humans crave both freedom and security. These two ideals are often difficult to bring into accordance. Part of me wants to be free of the burdens and responsibilities of being a home owner, especially a yurt owner who commutes a hour each way to work. And part of me doesn’t ever want to rent again. So I have been thinking about how to bring these two cravings together.

The solution is to have my home work for me. What is the point of having a place in Nature if I spend all my time working and driving to a different location? I get to walk in the woods on the weekend and sometimes not even then as I am so busy doing all the things necessary to maintain a mortgage. We pour all the money we make into paying for it. If home is just a place to sleep between work shifts, a place to decorate as an expression of my creativity, and a place to store my stuff without having to deal with upstairs neighbors and landlords, then the price is too high. Home should be more than that.

I need my home to be where I work. I need the land to provide a living. And at the foundation of this, I need to be a good steward of the land, making it a better place than when I came to it.

Any home we build will out live us by hundreds of years. The land is as close to permanent as humans can perceive in reality. We can not and never will “own” land or “own” a home. We are just caretakers and stewards for a time. And for our care-taking and good stewardship, we get a place to call home. I also think though, that with clear intentions, respect for the environment, working closely with the spirits of place, we can have the land care for us in return for as long as we maintain the relationship. As with everything on the Druid path, we need to focus on the relationship.

So today the peas were planted. This weekend, more seeds will go in the ground. Together my wife and I will create a plan for the long-term, a plan for working with the land and building a relationship that allows us to grow enough food to have it be a viable business. We begin slowly and work steady towards that vision. At the very least if we can’t manage to develop a business, we should become much more self-sufficent, reduce “waste”, and most importantly, work with the land and the spirits of place to build a life filled with connection and beauty. Home will be a relationship that nurtures us in return for our nuturing it.

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Last night I went to a PermaCulture meet-up. It was surprisingly enlightening. The presentation was excellent. The group was diverse (for Maine standards). A few things in particular struck me.

I was impressed with just how clearly the presenter stated just how unsustainable our current way of living is. We have built the most complex system of economics, communities, infrastructure, and culture ever seen on the face of the planet; and it is all built upon the premise of endless cheap fossil fuel and the idea that we can consume and create endless waste without consequence. Most people realize this isn’t sustainable and major change has to come. But you can’t argue that this is not currently the situation and foundation of our modern life. 50% of the Earth’s non-renewable resources have been used up by the baby-boomer generation. These are gone forever. Richard Heinberg (a peak oil expert) was quoted as saying, “Any system that uses fossil fuels is unsustainable” (The quote may not exact). Is there any part of our modern economic system that isn’t built on the premise of cheap energy?

The question is can we make change in an organized intelligent preemptive manner? Or are we going to face collapse of the system without having planned for it? Personally I am changing my way of being in the world and planning and building my future now.

The second thing that struck me was the PermaCulture approach itself. It blends perfectly with my view of Druidry. Not only does it take an integrated look at living in the environment, taking into account humans, rocks, trees, water, animals, the whole community of what I call “souls”, recognizing the relationship on all levels between these souls.  It also looks at systems over time.

In Druidry we are asked to not only look at the a soul with respect and equality, but we are asked to look at the whole story of that soul. We can’t just take into consideration the energies of the moment, but we need to look at the bigger picture and listen to the life story of that soul. This may sound abstract but it is perfectly normal in the our justice system. We take into consideration (most of the time), the history of the individual and the history of the relationship between an perpertrator and the victim. There is a difference between cold calculated murder for money and killing a person whose has been one’s abuser for a years on end. We look at the history, the whole story. Druidry ask that we do this in all of our relationships, from family and friends, to our food, to our tools, to our homes, and on and on and on, every relationship. Of course we do this within the limits of our human consciousness, but we are asked to try.

We need to bring this approach to all of our relationships, including our relationship to world via consumerism. It may sound strange to look at the whole story when one is buying a light-bulb but that is precisely what we as consumers, need to take into account. When we look at the history of a light-bulb, we look at the ethics of the company that produced it; the ethics of the company selling it; we look at the creativity and genius that went into the design and development; we look at the intention of the manufacturer in regards to quality and longevity. This conscious consumerism has to become a normal day to day way of being in the world. Making unconscious choices gives power to people and entities that have no sense of obligation to the indiviual, the community, or the planet. Do we really want to give money to companies that abuse children? Cut down the rain-forest? Spew hate on the radio and television? Create super-fund sites?

I see being a consumer and engaging in the economy as working and relating directly to deity. The gods of trade are forces that moves within the human collective. Trade is a natural expression of what it is to be human. We do business. I think the gods of trade are, at this moment in time, the most prevalent of all the gods of human nature. They are ruling the planet. Once again we have submitted to deity and as I mentioned before, submission is no way of living an ethical life. Submission certainly can be easier and allow us to just follow the herd, or follow a leader without having to stress our minds, emotions, or our souls with responsibility. The end result of this is always a lack of peace. There isn’t a respect for the boundaries and nemetons of other souls (and just as important, the nemeton of our own soul). Submission allows us to cut ourselves off from listening to the whole story, to experiencing the story of another soul for ourselves. We are simply swept along with the currents of the forces in play. Submission allows good people to run a concentration camp. Submission allows us to stay quiet while politicians send money to people who make land-mines. On a less extreme level, submission allows us to buy eggs from a factory farm that rips the beaks off from chickens without anesthesia, or buy items made with processed genetically modified corn which funds the mass marketing of foods which are causing massive disease in our society.

So what we need to bring into being is a new paradigm for engaging with the gods of trade, one where we have equality, one where we stand on our own two feet, rooted into the Earth, grounded in our line of ancestry and heritage. And from that place, we can make conscious decisions about how we trade. When we do this, our acts of trade will not only be sustainable but even better, enhancing. The items and services we trade will not be depleting of the environment. We will be adding to our communities items and services that build a better life, more closely entwined with the natural world. The offensive and horrific concepts of “waste and garbage” will disappear.

We can no longer view ourselves as separate from Nature. What we do to Nature effects us. What we do to each other effects Nature. We are perfectly entwined. Our way of being in the world, our acts of trade must built on this simple truth as a foundation.

Am I being idealistic in thinking this is possible on a global scale? Most likely I am. But speaking for myself, I refuse to give in and submit to the norm. When I engage with the gods of trade, it will be from a place of equality and respect. I will not submit.

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I arrived at work today more awake than usual. There is an irritation inside of me spurring alertness. Writing to my dear grovemate this morning, I realized just what the issue is. It is the whole paradigm of modern life. It is a broken structure. And broken things need to be mended or discarded.

Within this modern paradigm for the day to day living we all do, I find that I am never alone. I never get alone time – maybe once a month for a couple of hours while my wife goes shopping or something. It isn’t my wife that is the issue here. She doesn’t get much alone time either. We are always busy trying to get all the things done that is required for us to have a home and a job so we never seem to have extended periods of quiet personal time. This is unnatural and it eats at me and I know it eats at her as well.

How can we know what we want to do in life if we never have downtime enough to sort through the options? Also I often feel like I can’t truly be myself as I don’t have time to pull down the facades (the facades that are required to play the various roles in life that I play) to see who I really am. Quiet alone time is the only way to figure some things out, to find my inner truth. I know “inner truth” isn’t removed from relationship. But we also have our relationship to ourselves to consider in life.

I often fantasize about being wealthy. The reason I want to be wealthy is so that I have free time. I don’t care about riches; I just want time. I would work just as much. But the work I would be doing, would be living a life perfectly entwined with the daily rhythms of nature. I once half-joked (in a slightly more vulgar manner) that the important things in life are sex, good food, and music. I think that is actually spot on. And amazingly enough, Nature is filled with all of these.

Part of me thinks we just need to bring spiritual awareness into the corporations. Then I think, “no, it is that the structures we have built have to come down.” We need to remake the our societies so that people are not resources to be used. We need to build economies and communities so that each person has the opportunity to touch Nature and find connection to the ecology of their home and landscape. I think perhaps we spend too much energy trying to make a failed system work – if I bring a plant into my cube, my work environment will improve. That is true and I love my plants here. But the truth is, my soul yearns to be in the wild. My soul yearns to be in my garden caring for the food that will nourish me on a level money can’t approach. The real issue isn’t the plant. It is the cube. We all work jobs, knowingly setting aside precious time so that we can have food and shelter, and hopefully a few hours during the week to ourselves to try to repair the broken connections to our environment, to Nature. This paradigm doesn’t server us well. And as we all know, it doesn’t server Nature very well either.

I told my grovemate that as much as I love to spend time with her, I highly support her being “selfish” and taking all the time she can for herself to be alone in the woods. This modern life is f#@king crazy. A thousand years ago, life was quiet, lit only by fire and the sun. Everyone had alone time. Being in the woods was the most natural thing in the world. Today it is a luxury. I am sick of it. I want a love affair with the Queen of Fey, Mistress of the Forest. I want to be immersed in Nature so that I can learn what it is to be a human being living on the Earth, to live in connection with the cycles and tides of life. There are gods of Nature and gods of human nature. Today we are subservient to the gods of human nature (particularly the gods of trade and technology) and subservience is no way to live.

Koyaanisqatsi”  – a Hopi word that means, “crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living” – this is where we find ourselves. This is our inheritance. We need a new paradigm for the day to day living. We need to build a new way of being in the world. Life is short and I am not going to settle for living my days out in the rat race, yearning for Nature from my cube and my car. I am going to build a better life.

I am going to become a farmer.

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We finally heard peepers are our place out in Casco. We live in a cold valley so everything is delayed. It was 20 degrees last Thrusday morning. So anyway, we were thrilled to hear their song, “It’ Spring! Notice Me, ME, ME, ME!”

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