Summer Silhouette

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Silhouette of dry grass in the late summer sun

This picture makes me feel warm and restful. It reminds me of the long shadows of an autumn evening. Many leaves are changing their colour, and though it is getting colder, on sunny days it still feels quite warm. It feels gentle and yet full of life and vigour.

It tells me to rest and enjoy the fading warmth. To collect my strength before moving on again, but I think also to maintain a certain poise and readiness for when the time comes to act again.

“Doing” is very much emphasised in Western culture, and resting and quiet observation are undervalued. But if we wish to “do” things well we must learn to rest well and observe carefully. I’ve always thought of myself as a patient and observant person, not given to haste.

Shadows provide a place for relaxation, shelter and a hiding place. There are plenty of species that need some shade to grow, like fungi. This autumn we’ve been looking for edible mushrooms, mostly woodland species that prefer shade and the shelter of trees; we’ve also been given logs for growing shitaki mushrooms, and they need some shade to grow, though not too much.In the summer I am acutely aware of how I need shade. In the middle of the day, when the sun’s shining bright, I will actively seek shade, instead of standing in direct sunlight.

Shadows protect all living beings and give them space and time for rest and recuperation, to give space to grow and find shelter from summer heat or predators. My “shadow self” has protected me, from others and from myself. If I do not understand my shadow self, or rather its contents, it makes sense that they may be “hidden” from me, it could be damaging to myself or others if I didn’t know how to handle those contents. It takes a work of introspection and understanding to properly handle the shadow. Sometimes the shadow also hides what is not yet ready to emerge. The womb protects the baby and the soil protects the seed until they are ready to emerge into the world. I feel I have a developed a lot of my potential. I also feel I have a lot more potential to develop and that bit by bit I am recuperating many things that I had hidden. At present, my training in aikido is showing me a whole world of untapped human potential that I never realised I had. The ability to be calm in stressful circumstances, my innate athleticism and also my ability to teach and help others advance in their own learning. I have a lot more confidence in my body about what it can and can’t do, and yet still these limits are being pushed further than before.

I can gradually and continually push my limits, revealing new abilities and qualities in me. This isn’t something that miraculously appears overnight, but is something that takes a lifetime of development. I feel  at peace with what I don’t know of myself; either I will eventually know, or if I will not know it is because I don’t need to or it is not the correct time to know. I continue doing what I am doing; there are many seeds that have been sown and they are gestating. Some are now emerging or will emerge, and I feel everything is unfolding as it should.

 

Gathering Sparks of Light (poem)

I’ve used to share my poetry on The Blackbird’s Perch,  but I think I shall put that blog into retiring, but keeping it for posterity, and any poetry that arises I shall share here in the new category of ‘poetry’. Here’s one from this weekend.

Gathering Sparks of Light
In the darkness
sparks of light
in need of liberation.
I cannot find them
by avoiding the dark.
I can but face and enter
their dark abode.
I gather them together
Into new constellations
Enriching the who of my being.

The Call of Toland

Three hundred years ago John Toland stood on Primrose Hill calling for a gathering of Druids a year and a day hence, to meet on the 22 September 1717 in The Apple Tree Tavern in London, on which day druids from all over the British Isles and also Brittany met together to formally take Druidry out of centuries of hiding. The same meeting from which The Druid Order and the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids draw their origins – or so the story goes.

Historically, there’s little to say this actually happened, but each detail is significant in the history of the Druid Revival – John Toland, Primrose Hill and 1717 are all significant to modern Druidry. The above event represents a synthesis of things that have gone into the DNA of modern druidry.

So here I give my own “Primrose Hill” call to druids all over the world, that a year and a day hence – 22nd Sept 2017, Autumn Equinox – we celebrate three hundred years of the revival of the ancient druid ways! (nothing official, just a recognition of the significance of this date).

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Weaving

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I went for a little walk around the forest, picking up things as I went. I even cut a few hazel sticks to use for the structure. I call the finished art Forest Weaving.

Forest Weaving feels like the forest in mobile form. I am in my house, the forest is outside, and yet the forest is also in here with me. The various components aren’t separate but comprise parts of the same being. It is the forest in the form of a web in the same way I am the universe in the form of a human.

In a way that each individual thing is a unique microcosm of the macrocosm, I can see the distinction between me and Forest Weaving, it is there and I am here, yet we are unique representations of the macrocosm, of the forest surrounding us, the Earth we exist on and the whole Universe.

There is a common identity shared throughout nature, and we all share in the same being. This doesn’t undermine or dissolve our differences, but enhances them. And our differences don’t separate us but make us unique expressions of the whole.

With this awareness I don’t feel so different or separated from others, I feel we all share a commonality that cannot be shaken off with losing Being. We are all participants in the Same Thing, not separate objects floating around, at times interacting, at times not.

I have an essential identity that I share with others. I feel  a sense of common participation with all things. I feel this is an essential part of who and what we are. Harmony is more essential to existence than disharmony. When we feel harmony deep down, we are in contact with out common  identity. It reminds me to pay attention to when I feel harmonious and when not.

 

 

 

Depth Politics – Roots of Conflict

Politics is all about conflict, and there are thousands of different conflicts present in politics (below I present a “small” selection). Every political system and ideology expresses some sort of conflict or another that has to be resolved in society, and we prioritise them and take sides.

Political theorists look at history, pinpointing the conflict/s that they feel define history, but usually at the expense of other conflicts. Usually their analyses look at the workings of the political and economic systems in an attempt to improve them or provide alternatives. They talk about how they work, how they should work and what would be best, yet very few reach into the psychological roots of conflict.

These conflicts aren’t just aspects of our society, the are present within us, emanating from us into society and our political systems. If we don’t resolve these issues within us at the root and in our most immediate and intimate relationships, there’s little hope for them to resolved in the world. Below are a list of conflicts, many of which have deep historical roots, and all of which are very much active today, but they all have a little space within us, and will continue to do so, whether we live in a republic or a monarchy, dictatorship or democracy.

It’s very easy to see these issues at work in society at large, but what about within us?
man vs woman
masculine vs feminine
adults vs children
human vs nature
cultural vs natural
technological vs ecological
sustainability vs consumerism
domestication vs wildness
organic vs artificial
urban vs rural
agriculture vs industry
producer vs consumer
owner vs worker
public vs private
rich vs poor
self-sufficiency vs trade
leisure vs work
solidarity vs bargaining
elitism vs equality
individual vs collective
foreign vs native
history vs progress
tradition vs innovation
stability vs change
cosmopolitan vs provincial
global vs local
centralism vs federalism
control vs democracy
security vs liberty
justice vs freedom
rights vs responsibility
economic vs social vs ecological values
needs vs wants
science vs religion
spiritual vs secular
collaboration vs competition
thoughts vs feelings
reflection vs reaction
strength vs sensitivity
beliefs vs experience
verbal vs non-verbal

To name just a few!

Man in Nature

 

More art and reflections from Eco-Art.🙂

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My self-portrait was me as the Green Man. I’ve always been fascinated with this symbol showing that humanity is at one with nature, and I’ve often taken the nickname Treegod on some forums.

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The next picture was an experience I had recently watch about sixty ravens flocking together to migrate. They were hanging around the cliffs above my home.

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The two pieces of art woven together, showing that experience and experiencer are united.

I call the artwork “Man in Nature”.  I really get a sense of identity, that my person is really a part of my natural attractions, that my experience of seeing the ravens (and this happens every autumn) isn’t just something I experienced, it is something I am connected and identified with.

When “man is in nature” I don’t mean an object within a context, I mean that this man and humanity in general are completely submerged in nature and cannot be separated from it. I have a sense that I am myself a collection of webstrings and that they run through and beyond me, and perhaps what I call “boundaries” are just another type of connection.

The “deepening of bonds” arises naturally from this awareness, with no need to “use” it. Or maybe it isn’t deepening of bonds, but deepening the awareness of the bonds we already have. We already have deep bonds with everything and everyone around us, but we aren’t always aware of that.

This really reinforces and makes real the idea that observed and observer are really part of the same expression of reality. When we experience something, we are part of that experience. What I feel corresponds well to what I think. I feel that the experience of the ravens is something that is very much within me and part of me, and I a part of it.

I think we often go day-to-day without considering how deeply we affect and are affected by the world. Each day has a deeper affect on me than I care to consider, and this is worth really taking notice of and deepening my awareness and understanding of it.

The Advice of Fearn

The tree associated with fearn is the alder (Alnus glutinosa) and the meanings associated with it are advice, oracules, protection and guidance. It’s the protection that comes with good advice, friends and family that’ll look out for you and give you shelter if you need it. If you find yourself unsure or confused, you may seek out counsel, perhaps from other people that you know, or perhaps from other ways of knowing that we are not used to, something slightly more intuitive. We have the habit of thinking that the conscious mind is all there is to “who we are”, but there are other insights and resources within us that we haven’t tapped into. An aperture apears in the limits of identity and knowledge, and we find solisism isn’t an option in this world of many different beings.

If ever my pride gets in the way of listening, I shall endeavour to remember fearn‘s advice!


Today’s meditation gave me an insight about the first five fews (the first aicme), beith, luis, fearn, saille and nuin. There is a sense here that corresponds with the process of individuation. First we begin with beith, starting on the journey, being purified and initiated for it. Next comes luis which offers us some protection and definition of a psychological/psychic kind. We could say that the individual has begun to define themselves through the ego. Next comes fearn; now that we have defined self we can come face to face with other. This can be other people or, since I mention the ego, the unconscious. The ego must begin  to reach out and define its relationships with other and become conscious of the unconscious – the latter is achieved with saille, which provides “non-rational” ways of knowing, through dreams, symbols and art (which may be confusing without the protection and guidance of luis and fearn, self and other). The ego learns to be more flexible and fluid, following its intuition. Next nuin gives a link of communication and a synthesis between conscious and unconscious, self and other. Nuin can sometimes be found after luis, so we may say that the process of linking started then, but it is fulfilled at the end. It’ll be interesting to see how this process is reflected through the other aicmes.

What Did the Thaw Reveal?

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This was an Eco-Art exercise using icecubes with paint.


I wasn’t sure how to do it, or what to do with it, so just experimented with making different marks and patterns. These mostly got lost the more paint I put on it, as did the colours, which turns more “muddy”, and yet the patterns and colours weren’t completely extinguished by the process.

I tried to do it almost straight away and it did paint, but not so thickly. Then, as they started getting more thawed, the blocks of ice would get “puddles” stuck to their bottoms, which I could then use to make bigger splodges on the paper. I suppose I could have spent more time,  but I ran out of paper. I think I may need to do this several times again just to get the “hang of it”. Well, I’ve already done it twice.

The slow release of the paint mixture does require some patience, and a real willingness to let the process happen as opposed to forcing it. My frame of mind was “getting it over and done with”, for a number of reasons (priorities and use of time, etc.), so I perhaps didn’t make use of it as much as I could have. At the same time, the learning of this technique is also “slow” and may require many times to get the best out of it. I feel I’m now equipped with a new way of creating art, as a practice and in life in general, and that this has a lot more potential to thaw and release interesting, new things.

So I look at them and ask myself what did the thaw reveal in these pictures? I feel one has more dynamism and more internal structure, revealing more details. The other is more undifferentiated and “muddy”, a bit like what happens after the snow thaws. They are done, more or less, the same, with the same mix of colours, and the same process, but different results, but essentially they are “the same”.

The next time there is a frost or snow I’ll look at the mud left behind to see what details are left behind, it may look undifferentiated, but it may also reveal interesting details within that.

There are many things within me waiting to “thaw”, so natural potentials await their appropriate time, but also many “unnatural” things that haven’t been given the chance to grow and blossom. I just love this image.

I can relate to the feeling of being frozen and having my true potential locked up within me. I can also relate to the fact of thawing. Accessing this potential isn’t something we can provoke, we just need to give it the opportunity to thaw, and natural processes will take over.

There are many processes in nature that “lock” energy and matter into certain forms and then “release” them (such as photosynthesis and leaf shedding or digestion and defecation or sweating).

But this is all part of the flow of things; everything goes through this process in one way or another. This is a process I will take more care to observe in as many different ways as possible, and I think it’s important to observe how I “lock” and “release” energy in my life. Locking is okay, as long as release comes after it, following natural processes.

Aikido and Kabbalah II

This is a continuation of my series using the kabbalah’s tree of life as a model to explain a bit about aikido, a Japanese martial art based on non-violence.

Tiferet – the sensei leads and guides the class, they are the centre of the dojo, sharing what they know through discipline and compassion. They represent the lineage of aikido and will transmit that according to the level of their own integrity and ability in aikido. They maintain the coherence of the tradition and discipline, as well as maintaining the coherence of the class with the dojo. What the sensei says goes, there can be no doubts or excuses, though there’s plenty of room for reflection later. They may be imperfect and make mistakes, but within the dojo, in the moment, they should be listened to. The sensei is a student too, still learning, though with more knowledge and experience than their students. Being a sensei is a lesson in itself with it own challenges

Gevurah – when you walk into a dojo, or even before, you will notice that there’s a lot of etiquette and protocol, as with any Japanese tradition. The goal is to maintain the discipline within the dojo, between the students and the sensei. The sensei maintains the overall discipline of the dojo, but within that the students themselves must maintain their own discipline. This has nothing to do with conformity or control, but respect. Respect for Japanese tradition and respect for the people we are working with. Aikido, as with any martial art, is a discipline, and so we must treat it as such. It’s a discipline that marks every aspect of our behaviour within the dojo, and in every respect character building. Not just a discipline to learn the techniques of aikidio, but in practicing it we better ourselves as people.

Chesed – effective aikido is about defending not just oneself but also defending one’s attacker from harm. Aikido cannot be hard, aggressive, or tense – this is where harm comes in. Instead it should be applied with gentleness, calmness and compassion, which, perhaps surprisingly, requires a good deal of discipline (we’re not used to this mode of being; we learn a lot of bad habits over the course of a lifetime, and it takes a lot to undo them). Flexibility is also an important part of it. I am learning a particular form of aikido, with a certain form and style, but each technique can be applied and adapted to a variety of situations and attackers. Within aikido, there are many schools with their own styles and emphasis on different aspects of the art, displaying its own inherent versatility and flexibility. In the end, the aikidoka has to manifest this flexibility and compassion in everything they do.