Posts Tagged awareness

What Did You Do Today?

This week, I was rather forcefully advised that the root of all suffering and depression comes from the urge to acquire, from a ‘goal-centred’ way of life. This advice included charts, showing me just how this theory worked.

OK, I thought. Up to a point, yes, I agree. If you’re constantly demanding, ‘gimme’ with expectations of reward like a spoilt child, then you will very likely be disappointed.

This is one of the main cries of the modern world against capitalism, that constant marketed need for STUFF which we’re all supposed to have. We work to make money to buy stuff, but must have more stuff, so work harder… repeat.

I’m also aware that ‘desire’ is a key tenet in Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths. Numerous philosophers have covered it as well, in their exploration of how we work as human beings.

But something about those charts that I was shown rankled, stuck in my brain like an itch. Something’s wrong with this idea, said my subconscious.

Perhaps it’s the way it was sold to me – that the root of any depression that I might feel is because I’m constantly seeking gratification. No matter what it is, any gratification is temporary, therefore I’m destined to be disappointed, so am on a negative wheel of constant striving and disappointment. Doomed from the start.

Aside from the capitalist ‘stuff’ understanding of want, though, surely it’s the nature of every living thing to desire something? Or is it the balance between desire and need?

A baby cries. She wants something – reassurance, food, comfort (or a simple changed nappy). She is operating on instinct. So is this desire, or need?

When something is taken away, we realize how much we might want it – or need it. Telephones, money… food, oxygen.

So it seemed that rather than a conscious decision to want something for immediate pleasure or fulfilment, I’m trying to comprehend the animal need that keeps us moving. That need to survive, certainly, but also the need to not be in pain, not to suffer. To be healed, to live as best I can.

(Buddhism again covers this in its own unique manner, but I’m not well-versed enough in that to discuss such perspectives here. Worth exploring, though.)

So if it’s not the desire for Stuff that is causing the happy/sad cycle, I thought, perhaps it’s something more amorphous. Rather than a new iPad, I’m just wanting peace, happiness, stability?

Yes, it’s a desire. Yes, it’s more than an instinctive need. But I think it’s something that we all share. Again, this is a philosophical question that’s rattled on for years. But this is me. I’m looking for something practical, that I can work with.

One of the things that was highlighted with those charts was my desire to help others. A good thing, right? Nope – because it was a constant desire that could never be fulfilled, it was making me unhappy – so it’s bad.

So…. I should stop trying to help others?

The over-simplification here was staggering. System-logic – if A is true all the time, for all things, then B and C must follow. Cut and dried, no exceptions. Except here, A – the primary theory – seemed so flawed. And this truly made me start digging for the deeper source of what was wrong here.

What if it’s not a desire, but a need, on a deeper, instinctive level, for living things to help other living things? Cynics may disagree, but I cannot believe that we are all as inherently selfish as we are sometimes made out to be, as a species.

That baby cries. She needs something. She cannot fulfil its own needs. So we help.

This isn’t just a human reaction. Shamans teach that we are all connected. Animists posit that all living things have intrinsic value. So moving beyond the gratification/Stuff/gimme level… I see all around me the truth that we are seeking personal happiness and wellbeing through helping others. Our healing comes from that. Yes, reward is nice, but that connection is the key, that relationship with another.

So something I can work with, here. How about this:

What did you create today? What did you make? More than you think, perhaps.

So often, we don’t credit ourselves with the impact that we have on the world around us, human people and others. How much we do, without conscious awareness.

A good friend made her baby daughter happy by playing with her. My puppy dogs have tried to help in the same way, when they hear her crying. This is beyond species difference, this is simply natural, instinctive.

Today, I’ve made those puppy dogs happy by playing with them in turn. But I’ve also done things with my own creativity – I’ve made knitted creations for friends. I’ve made food to nourish my family. I (hopefully) made you smile – or think – by writing this. Those are intentioned acts, but still born of instinct to do. Others will respond. I can only hope the response is positive.

Every day, we are dynamic – we do so much. And it’s not ‘goal-oriented’, necessarily – sometimes it just is what we do. We try to be aware of our impact, as best we can… and from this can come so much happiness.

Yes, pain as well, certainly. But I’m presuming that you’re more likely to be trying to cause happiness than pain… I hope.

If we try to acknowledge that it’s not about the reward; that sometimes simply the act, the doing, is enough, if done with awareness, right intention, solid relationship. This is so central to my life practice, physical, mental and spiritual. This is what keeps me going.

What makes me sad is when I feel I’ve failed – not done something, or acted badly, or hurt another. Not so much a ‘goal not achieved’ as a discordant note in the melody of my day, my life… and potentially someone else’s. I can try to make up for this, but sometimes it’s done. I have to acknowledge that and move forward, which can be difficult. Such sticky guilt/shame feelings are often what hold us back, as our energy goes into them (despite the fact that they’re still done, unchangeable) rather than learning and moving forward.

So perhaps it’s truer to say that rather than beating ourselves up over impossible goals, we focus instead on what we have done, the truth of it? How that action relates to those around, and to other actions as we move along our path? How are we helping ourselves through others, learning and progressing in life?

We are all connected. I’m optimistic at heart – I believe that we all can do right for others if we try, through action or understanding. It’s the over-simplification of our motives that can cause us to give up before we start.

I see such actions around me, every day. This is my life, my spirituality – both are inextricable. As life is made up of a series of moments, so we acknowledge and take responsibility for them.

And sometimes realize that a smile, a laugh, a hug isn’t done for reward or achievement – it just is.

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Changes

The year is turning. We approach Samhain. I’ve written about it before, but suffice to say, this time of year makes sense to me as a ‘New Year’, a time when the harvest is done, the latest season is concluded… and newness is on the horizon.

While life has still been busy for me recently, I’ve noticed more and more ‘writing on the wall’ – repetitive signs of what I need to be looking at, now and in the coming months. I get the feeling it’s a seasonal thing, as my connection with the wider world always flows strongly at this time of year. The spirit of Autumn, with its beautiful colours, scents and textures, has been my favourite since I was young. One of the first ‘tasks’ suggested to me as a baby Pagan was ‘get out there and roll around in the leaves!’

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While I’m being called to explore certain avenues in my personal practice, it’s been suggested (by a much respected, wise and (at times) extremely marvellous/silly friend) that I move this blog further as well. It’s been a few years now, and I agree: it’s time to move things deeper.

As you may have noticed from recent posts, I’ve been increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of the wider world, both in the Pagan and secular communities, and am less inclined than ever to suffer fools gladly. This may signal that I’m getting older and turning into a grumpy Crone before my time, but I suspect it may just be that I’ve now reached some internal limit with bullsh*t, and want to dig my heels in – to actively challenge, to encourage change.

My constant mantra of ‘what are you doing’ now has the well-known addendum of toddlers (and, rather significantly, philosophers) everywhere: ‘Why?’ So much of what I’ve seen around has made absolutely no sense to me lately – alleged adults acting in ways entirely contrary to their wishes and wellbeing, with the sense of ‘I do it because I should’ still in control.

Look around. Never before have we needed to challenge outmoded ways of living. We fancy ourselves Modern and 21st Century, yet we act in ways that would make our ancestors cringe. Including those recent ancestors, still within living memory, who fought (sometimes with their lives) for the ‘rights’ we take for granted today. Somewhere in our comfortable lives we’ve become complacent, and in doing so, forgotten our own power.

Please remember, though, that there’s already a lot of positive out there. Mutual feeling, desire for united change, growing communities (tangible and online) – we can’t stop evolving, learning. We just have to check our motivations and methods as we go.

I’m sure you know this already, Preaching to the choir. So:

Why are we doing what we’re doing? And, to inspire action rather than cynical giving up: ‘What do I really want to do?’ This isn’t selfish. This is looking inside, to consider oneself as well as those around – to see where those connect, personal boundary to wider world, rather than being subsumed by the mythical societal ‘should’. What are our real priorities? How are we bringing them to fruition over the next year?

Let’s trust ourselves, and move forward. The New Year approaches. I can feel it in my blood and my guts, smell it in the woodsmoke, feel it in the hard ground of new frosts. I’m excited to see where the path leads as I walk forward, both alone and as part of this community.

Oh, and by the way – this is also the time of gathering around the fire and telling stories, to nourish and inspire. Do feel free: comments are there for sharing 🙂

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Photos by bish – used with grateful thanks

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Druidry in the City

It’s always a challenge to combine your spirituality with your ‘regular’ life. This is one of the joys of Druidry, and a strong factor in what originally attracted me to it: that lack of dividing line. Something that would help when there’s an impossible deadline, a sardine-can of a train journey, another late night at the desk.

Druidry really isn’t a fair-weather path, something to do when you ‘get a minute’. It’s constant, lived, breathed, investigating your personal connection and relationship with the world around all the time. And let’s face it, if anywhere/one needs it, it’s the worker, the ‘wage-slave’, the office and the streaming multitude of lonely commuters.

Don’t believe me? OK. Do you really think your Gods are only present when you call them, wearing the right clothes and performing the correct rituals? Our ancestors saw the spiritual (in terms of real, named spirits) everywhere. From the water in the cooler to the energy in the computer wires. The natural world is where we live, even if it’s concrete, glass and granite.

I’ve written about it before, but wanted to just write something practical today for those of you out there with your noses at the grindstone (farmer or financier).

When you get the chance today, either get outside or at least to a window. Look around. Breath (yes, I know fumes aren’t fun, but use your judgment). Feel the air – natural or processed? Be aware of the light on your skin – sunlight or bulb? Notice the difference.

Ground yourself: feet on the floor. Listen to what’s around you, feel the buzz of people and activity. Then listen harder, to the undertones. Worry or enjoyment? Stress or happiness? Look inside, at yourself. Are you knotted up with the weight of expectations, or flowing with your tasks, your duties and responsibilities?

Notice the spirits around you. The lone tree planted in a pavement and ignored, save by the birds. And then the gods of modern life, that we bow down to: the Lord of Deadlines, the stern dictator of Commuter Etiquette. Eris is Lady of Computers, if anyone is! Make whatever offerings (coffee? chocolate? small symbols on the desk?) are appropriate, and ask them to be kind as you work with them.

Realize how blindness and ignorance threatens our awareness, as we walk past the homeless man, fail to help the crying girl lost on a roadside, or do nothing for the fellow apparently unconscious on a train platform. See the God of Fear that prohibits our actions, due to propriety or overruling awareness of How We Would Look.

This is not an exercise in guilt. This is an urge to Wake Up. Feel your spirituality as it runs through you, every minute of every day. What are you doing with it? How it is informing your awareness? Ultiumately, how is it helping?

Now. On Monday morning, from the moment you leave your home, walk with awareness. Really look around, at the land, the creatures, your fellow workers. Forget the MP3 player, even the book on the train or bus. Look around. See the land you walk through, natural and man-made. Don’t judge, just bear witness. Consider how you move within it. Let your spirituality inform your actions.

Try to carry this awareness through the day, putting perspective on your actions – especially if you ‘don’t have time.’ Why are you doing what you’re doing? Not in a negative sense – who will benefit from your efforts? See your link in the chain, from immediate co-workers to end users. Washing up may be a chore, but it allows clean utensils to enhance meals, to fuel others. Call centre conversations are immensely frustrating, but is this because one of those involved isn’t really listening? How are you helping, others you are beholden to help, and yourself?

Remember your connection. It’s always there, as are those who walk with you. Just stopping to take a deep breath and bring your true self back from panic or frenetic activity is a sacred act.

Your Gods, your ancestors – would they be proud of you for what you do, even if it’s just making it through the day? Thank them for the realization that ritual is possible wherever you are – and for their help in the daily battle.

You\re never alone. You just have to open your eyes.

Addendum: I’m now slightly late this morning, because I was compelled to write this piece. I’ve just completed the Greater Morning Ritual of the Coffee, however, and wanted to share – preparation with awareness and gratefulness, now taking a moment to sit and enjoy it. Before rushing off to get ready for work…

Enjoy your day, kind reader x

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