My revolution: only connect

Photo credit: Katherine Pangaro (katypang at flickr.com)

This week, Danielle Laporte asked another really great question: “what do you want to revolutionize?”

This question could not be more timely for me. For the past two months, I have felt a drive to clarify and refine my mission: why am I here? what is my practical purpose in this lifetime?

Over the past week, the penny has dropped: I am all about deep connection, within the self, with other people and beings, with Life itself; not as an action, but as a way of being, a way of unfolding.

We often experience ourselves as separate. We seem apart from one other, and from other beings and things: ‘I’ am separate from ‘you’, from this bed, from my pet dog, from the ground on which I walk; you and I have different backgrounds, religions, genders, skin colours, abilities, desires, so different that we find it difficult sometimes even to imagine how to connect with one another.

We even experience ourselves as separated from ourselves, into different personae: this is the ‘me’ that shows up at work, this is the ‘me’ that goes to bed with my lover, this is the ‘me’ that goes to dinner with my parents. Or we think of ourselves divided into ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ traits, some of which we embrace and some of which we try to get rid of, or into ‘me then’ and ‘me now’. Too often, we feel fragmented, lonely, frustrated and angry.

Above all, if we’re honest with ourselves, we feel unsafe and afraid.

Photo credit: openDemocracy on flickr.com

But this separateness is not true. Deep connection is the natural state of affairs, even if that’s not how we experience life. We can see the truth of that in our breathing: we breathe in air, and all the organisms and molecules in it; we breathe out carbon dioxide, which enables trees and plants to breathe and live; the trees and plants in turn breathe out oxygen, which enables us to breathe and live. We can see it in our eating: we incorporate other lifeforms into ourselves, literally into our bodies.

We can see it in our society, economy and culture: as much as the dominant way that each of these three operates seems to keep us separated, fragmented and unable to connect with one another, in fact they all rely completely upon our deep interconnection, not only locally, but globally. Through the work of scientists, we now know that deep connection is even the truth of how physical reality itself is made up at the most fundamental level.

Deep connection is our birthright.

It is as natural as breathing, as essential to our well-being and as central to our existence.

Looking back over my life, I realise that everything I’ve done that has meant a thing to me, everything has been about recognising, deepening and living connection: from protesting nuclear weapons, to co-founding Birmingham Bi Women’s Group, to being in a workers’ collective delivering locally grown organic vegetables, to working as an aromatherapist, to teaching, to writing poetry, to celebrating the changes of the seasons, to learning with NCBI, to working in community development, to marrying and burying people. Connection, connection: only connection.

No-one can give you deep connection, nor take it away. It is yours, irrevocably. But the experience of deep connection can sometimes be blocked.

The core of my mission, my revolution, is to find and release the blocks to deep connection. I’m doing okay with that myself, these days, doing my healing work, committing to practices that bring the experience of deep connection into my everyday reality.

My next step is to help you to do the same.

What does deep connection mean to you? Where do you feel it flowing freely in your life? Where is your experience of it blocked?

The difference between religion and spirituality. (Identity, authenticity, action.)

Back when I was a mentor at The Interfaith Seminary, the question came up again and again from the students I was supporting of the difference between religion and spirituality.

For some of them, this was a matter of having rejected religion and embraced spirituality; for others, they were strongly committed to their religious faith and community, and could not imagine separating spirituality out from that.

In an era when mainstream religion appears to be declining, while both spirituality without religion and fundamentalist ‘our way or the highway’ religion appear to be on the increase, this question about the differences and relationship between religion and spirituality is an important one.

As a mentor, in order to help my own understanding and thus better support the students, I came up with two sets of questions:

Am I a good…

Christian?

Muslim?

Jew?

Buddhist?

Taoist?

Student of A Course In Miracles?

Sikh?

Pagan?

Hindu?

For it to make sense to answer ‘yes’ to these questions, one would have to identify as a member of that particular religion, faith or spiritual tradition, and – where necessary – accept its tenets and dogmas.

This is the core issue with religion that I see both in people who reject religion in favour of spirituality, and those who seek to impose their faith and dogma on the whole world:

Group identity and individual authenticity are pitted against one another.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

One of the many things I learned from my training in Interfaith Ministry was that there is a deep well of wisdom and spirituality at the heart of each and every religion, regardless of how it has been practiced by its followers over the centuries, and what has been done in the name of its God(s).

So here is the second set of questions to consider:

In this moment…

Do I love God/the Source of All/the Universe? Do I love and forgive my neighbour and myself? What fruit do I bear?

Am I surrendered to God/the Source of All/the Universe?

How am I expressing my humanity? Do I have a living relationship with God/the Source of All/the Universe?

Do I practice loving-kindness?

Do I allow everything its own nature?

Am I willing to be as God/the Source of All/the Universe created me?

Do my deeds sing a love song to God/the Source of All/the Universe?

Do I relate to humans, animals, plants, minerals and spirit beings with reverence and love?

Am I free of ego-attachment?

Each question or set of questions relates to the equivalent faith in the previous set of questions, but these questions can be answered freely by anyone, regardless of their religious identity.

They are a set of questions not about identity, but about emotion, action, integrity and authenticity.

When we look beyond the identity of a religion or faith group, and instead look to the roots of its spirituality, we see that at the core of each faith there is fruitful wisdom and a challenge to each one of us as human beings.

This does not mean that we can ignore the injustices carried out in the name of religion, but it gives us the tools to challenge the people who carry them out in the terms of what they say they are, and what they claim as the source of their values.

Let us be truly with each other

You may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet this month, as far as blogging goes. I’ve been working on several posts, but my energy is heading inwards, not spreading out. So instead of my own thoughts, I give you this prayer by Thich Nhat Hanh, which I found at the website of fellow Interfaith Minister Lisa Sarick:

As we are together, praying for peace,
let us be truly with each other.

Let us pay attention to our breathing.
Let us be relaxed in our bodies and our minds.
Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.

Let us be aware of the source of being

common to us all and to all living things.

Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion,
let us fill our hearts with our own compassion
towards ourselves and towards all living beings.

Let us pray that all living beings realise
that they are all brothers and sisters,
all nourished from the same source of life.


Photo Credit: Premasagar Rose

Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be the
cause of suffering to each other.
Let us live in a way which will not deprive other beings
of air, water, food, shelter, or the chance to live.


With humility, with awareness of the existence
of life and of the sufferings going on around us,

Let us pray for the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.

Know I am aware of you, breathing with you, praying with you. Blessed be. ♥

Boundaries, limits and infinity

I’ve been thinking about limits again these past few days, and what it would be like to live joyfully within them. Once again, the Gods of astrology are coming to my aid in working things through.

Money and energy – changeable limits

Money, as I’ve raised before, is Venus’ domain, along with love and beauty. Energy is governed by Mars, the warrior, Venus’ opposite number but also her lover.

Mars and Venus, by Mantegna

With both energy and money, I have to live within my limits. If I don’t, I will eventually become both seriously ill and destitute, stripped of every possibility of sustained relationship (Venus), and of the ability to assert myself in the world (Mars). But the limits on my energy and financial resources are subject to change. I may pay more attention to my diet and exercise, thus increasing my reserves of energy; I may work more, or more effectively, thus increasing my income, or I may simply have a stroke of good luck. Of course, I might also pay less attention, work less or less effectively, or have a stroke of bad luck.

I must live within my present limits of energy and money, if I wish to survive and thrive*, but I can also work to increase those limits – or at the very least, remain vigilant so that they do not shrink.

The fixed boundaries of time and space

Other boundaries though are not so flexible. Time and space, the boundaries governed by Saturn, who to the Ancient Greeks was Kronos, are fixed.

However illusory time may ultimately be, day to day, month to month, year to year, there is only a certain amount of it available to me. Space likewise may be really, really big, the universe as a whole may be expanding, but the space within which I live and move is delimited by three dimensions, and my own scale relative to them.

Saturn

It’s important not to balk too much at these boundaries, nor to disrespect Saturn and his domain. Without these boundaries of space and time the entire human experience as we know it would be impossible. There would be no way for us to know beauty, or love, nothing against which to sharpen our intellect, nor means for us to gain wisdom. The limited space and time that we do have, we should use wisely.

I cannot increase the number of hours in a day, or the number of inches in a mile. But I can increase what I am able to do within the time and space available to me. I can become more efficient, manage myself and my activities better, plan, structure and organise. All of these are under Saturn’s guidance.

But there is a potential trap here, which those of us who want to make ourselves and the world better all too easily fall into. If I become too focused on increasing my wealth and energy, too caught up in planning and structures, I may miss the opportunities to connect, to play, to experience wonder, to create and co-create that present themselves to me in every moment of every day.

Giving time and space to the limitless

'Starry Night' by Jessie Hodge (CC

Just this evening, I had a startling reminder of this. Going out into the garden with the dogs for their night-time stroll, my partner and I looked up and stood transfixed in the dark, eyes wide, staring deep into the Milky Way. No clouds, no moon, no streetlights, just stars, and more stars, and yet more stars. It was a moment of wonder, of joy, of blessing, of gratitude, and of simply being glad to be alive.

Connection, play, wonder and creation, joy, blessing, gratitude and gladness, are part of the aspect of life which has no limits or boundaries, the Ground of Being from which all emerges and to which all returns: the timeless; the infinite.

Finding a way to touch this infinite Ground every day, to connect with this timelessness which is so far beyond us yet forms the fabric of our very existence, provides the context for us to use our energy and money, a reason for us to make the best of the time and space we are given.

Whether we call this Ground of Being by the name God, Goddess, Mother, Father, Creator, Source, Life, the Universe or by any other name isn’t important; what is important is that we call, that we make the attempt to connect, that we open to that which is broader and wider and deeper than our own lives, our own limits, our own boundaries.

Because for those of us who know there is more to life than it seems on the surface, who seek for meaning and purpose, this is where the meaning, the purpose, the more lie.

Related pages: Spiritual path-finding, Marrying Neptune and Saturn: can dreams and limits mix?

* I highly recommend Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website. It’s aimed at UK residents, but has useful tips for anyone wanting to live better within their current means.