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.

Eco-Art: Movement

I’ve just finished an Eco-Art course, and I’ve decided, with a bit more time on my hands, I’d share some of the reflections and art here:

IMGP2697Yesterday it rained, and I watched the rain’s constant splashing on the house’s roof. I watched the effect as it hit the surface and expanded sideways. Afterwards I went for a walk with my dogs in the forest and saw that branches had bent lower with the weight of the water. There was a lot of silt that had been displaced down the valley, as temporary streams covered the paths. A tube we use to divert water to a small lake was blocked and the water was going another way. I unblocked it and the water once again went down it to reach the lake.

Everything is, was or will be in constant movement. The growth of plants towards the light shows their history of movement, bits of mould silently appear and we wonder “where did it come from?” Any change is a sign of movement. And as we sense things we are receiving signals that have moved through time and space to be sensed.

Water is really something that is in constant movement, and always in a state of flux from one state to another. I’ve just finished my painting Rain Splash, experimenting with water dropping down and hitting a surface, making its shapes. The water is “at rest”, and yet not at all. On a molecular scale it is drying, the moisture being absorbed into the paper or evaporating into the atmosphere.

Magic of the Mist

In my world of the Great Island, everything “comes from the Mist.” The Mist is the principle of creation from which the Great Island and the seas surrounding it came, mysteriously condensing like the morning dew. They came ready “equipped” with life and ecology, but the human/humanoid population came afterwards, emerging from the Mist in four waves, defining the four ages (smaller groups and individuals have also arrived, but with less impact). It is said that if you find yourself lost at sea and surrounded in mist, you may find yourself transported to another world, another universe, perhaps even the Great Island itself (see Great Island History and other Reports of St John de Monmouth).

Each wave is successively more “advanced”, technologically speaking, yet also more estranged from the creative power of the Mist, which has parallels to our world: we have become more technologically developed, more knowledgeable about the world around us, yet we are experiencing an ecological crisis due to our disconnection with our own natural roots. Perhaps we are advancing in ways we couldn’t have otherwise, but we are also perilously close to failing.

As our knowledge of the world increases so the Mist recedes more and more, and its magic and enchantment fade. But it is always there, because knowledge has its limits, and at the edge of our limits, there is the Mist. But the Mist also represents imagination and creativity, so though we gain in knowledge and technology, we lose something more essential to life itself. When we limit ourselves to What We Know, we limit our choices and actions, but when we become aware of our limits and grow beyond them, a whole new world of choices and actions emerge, as if from the Mist.

There is a prophecy of a “fifth wave” that will arrive and bring harmony to the Great Isle. The various peoples will once again become one with the Great Isle, but this time with the benefits of the technologies accrued along the way. The first wave came from the East, the second from the South, the third from the West and the fourth from the North, but where will the Fifth Wave come from? Only one direction remains: the centre, or within. It is a prophecy describing our own potential, not the arrival from “outside” that we must wait for.

The Fifth Wave defines well the difference between knowledge and imagination, yet also harmonises the two qualities, enhancing them beyond anything we can know or imagine, but this can only happen within each one of us.

The Pacifist Druid and Budo

“Let us begin by giving peace to the quarters, for without peace can no work be.” from OBOD ritual

One theme that is strong in modern Druidry is that of peace. The image of the ancient druids as “peacemakers” (whether accurate or not) is a compelling one, such as the one of a druid walking between two armies to stop them from fighting.

In OBOD ritual we are taught to call for peace to each of the cardinal points (North, South, West, East) for “without peace can no work be.” Many modern druids have different ideas about peace and pacifism, but for me peace is an important part of my druidry, and I look for practical and creative ways to live my life by it. One way, perhaps surprisingly, is through martials arts, more specifically aikido, which has a philosophy of non-violence and peace. It emphasises harmony between humanity and nature, mind and body, attacked and attacker, all of which are intimately related.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, learnt various forms of jujutsu. Later he became involved with Ōmoto-kyō, a Shinto sect where pacifism is very important, and so he began to develop his martial art in a way that not only became effective way of defending oneself, but also a way of not harming your attacker, if done skilfully. There are ways to let their energy pass, reflect it back or use their movement to unbalance them.

In aikido you don’t attack first because 1) it is a response to violence, not a way to achieve it and 2) when someone initiates an attack, their own aggression becomes a source of imbalance, and can be used against them. All techniques are defensive, and any strikes and punches are for distraction. Having said that, all techniques have their origin in causing pain and damage; where one technique involves an elbow strike to the throat, in aikido this becomes a way to simply touch the chin and tip over the opponent with little effort.

Ueshiba included Budo, or the Way of the Warrior, as part of his philosophy, but it is not a way to hurt or destroy others. It includes, instead, a martial attitude, discipline, sense of honour and inner rectitude for facing the “enemy”. Not the outer enemy that attacks us, but the inner enemy that produces weaknesses in us and prevents us from living life harmoniously.

Here is something that Ueshiba said about Budo.
“The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love.”

I think there is an idea about pacificm (which I’ve held) that is about avoiding violence or “being passive”, even. Budo, in the context of aikido, does not avoid violence, it faces it. But then, instead of responding to violence with violence we learn to face it and actively transform it, neutralising it through harmony. This principle can be applied not just to martial arts but to different aspects of our lives, which is certainly something to be encouraged for any Pacifist Druid.

Being Organised

For a while I’ve had several things that I’ve been wanting to do, but not been able to do them. Not out of lack of time, but because I’ve not known how to prioritise them. So now I have a list of things I’ve been meaning to do and a timetable to do them.

Monday I practiced on my didgeridoo and bodhrán, yesterday a spot of bird spotting, and today some art and fiction writing. Tomorrow’s a day off, but Friday I’m gonna work on my Psychosynthesis lesson. Just an hour for each thing, and the rest of the day leaves me free to do other things like cleaning the house, gardening and so on.

This also includes blogs. So every-so-often, like today, I can find myself some time to write something.

Life After Me; Me After Life

Today a phrase came to me: I don’t believe there is “me” after life, but I do believe there is life after “me”.

Everything is impermanent. Everything is subject to change. Everything. That’s a lesson I took away from Buddhism, and I applied the idea to everything. In the end even to the afterlife. If if there is a personal soul that survives the body, it too is impermanent, like the body, and will one day perish. Meaning that I’d still have to come to terms with mortality. “I”, as body or soul, will cease to exist. Whatever is left is food for worms (perhaps there are spirit-worms that will help my soul decompose?).

But since ideas of the afterlife are varied, abundant and remain a subject of belief and speculation, its more fruitful and relevant to deal with the here-and-now-life, the thing we can know immediately about.

Perspectives and priorities change; I’m not sure that I will continue existing after I die, but I’m extremely sure that life in the universe will continue long after I’ve gone, and this continuity of life deserves my consideration more than personal survival after bodily existence.

Training Reactions, Disciplining Instincts

I’ve spent a few years training my dogs and applying what I’ve learnt from the Cesar Millan aka Dog Whisperer, and I’ve realised just how much I’ve been training myself. Dog training isn’t just a way to “program” your dogs to get them to behave how you want; dogs reflect the energy of their owners, so if you want them to behave in a certain way you have to modify your own energy (i.e. reactions and instincts) so they have something different to reflect off of. And it has nothing to with physical superiority, it’s psychological. As you can see with the elephant tamers in India, giant animals that could easily overwhelm the humans in charge of them, but that actually cooperate. A few years ago I learn to ride horses the “horse whispering” way, earning their trust and cooperation rather than dominating them and controling them. Their own reactions reflecting the reactions of their rider. This requires discipline and consistency and an insight into how you react in certain situations and how you can train your reactions into other, more constructive directions.

And this is something I’ve been observing in Aikido, and is true of many martial arts. Any martial art is about training your reactions. When we’re attacked our reaction is to defend ourselves in whatever way. With martial arts we learn to refine our reactions so we can defend ourselves in quick and efficient ways. Aikido goes one further: we learn to refine our reactions so we can defend ourselves in quick efficient ways AND without hurting the attacker. You “accept” their attack, their aggression, to direct it yourself and neutralise it.

This requires discipline and consistency, the same discipline and consistency for training your dogs, i.e. training your own instincts. There is detailed etiquette involved which focuses the mind to the task at hand; there are behaviours my dogs have to observe, which in turn obliges me to behave in a certain way. And we all get what we want and need.

But this discipline or aikido and dog/horse/elephant whispering is not aimed towards mechanical control but an energetic and harmonious cooperation. We have an animal within us that needs expression and exercise, and is often reflected in the relationships we have with animals around us, and they can help us in this relationship, to establish an inner harmony.


Psychology: the Subjective Science

Science, traditionally, has been a manner of investigating our world in an objective way without subjective muddling. This has been put into question by some findings in Quantum Physics that our perception of something can influence the result. But what about subjectivity as a subject for study? An important part of “our world” is this subjectivity, so there should be a way to investigate it. And there is in the many discplines of psychology.

I was reading some material for a course I’ll be doing in ecopsychology, and the term “science” came up, that, through the exercises, we take notice of our senses and sensations in nature, and then set about describing or verbalising them. The best objective evidence we have of the subjective is verbal. But if each of us can set about observing  our experiences and faithfully and coherently giving them expression through words, then we can find commonalities, or at least bridge the subjective gap between us.

Perhaps because of differences in subjective perspective, the variety of psychological disciplines has flourished. There are so many theories, it’s difficult to know where to start. But since we’re investigating subjectivity, we can start with “I”, and all the thoughts, feeling and sensations that comes with this.

Book of Poems

It’s been a long time in coming. A very long time in coming, but at last it’s happening!

For the last few months I’ve been looking through my poems and creating a book of poetry from them, using Blurb. I’ve written so many that I’ll be publishing several books. For the moment, all the poetry for the first book has been collected and I just need to work on the look of the book and put pictures in, then it’ll be ready for publishing. 🙂