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?

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. ♥

Equal marriage – because freedom of religion matters

I first ‘met’ Jane Carnall many, many years ago through an APA we were both members of (Amateur Press Association – a bit like a blog ring before the public Internet existed). I have always found her clarity of thought and her measured tone incredibly helpful.

Here, as a guest blogger at Heathen Hub, she turns her attention to the consultation on equal marriage in Scotland, and the support and opposition to it from different religious groups. She sums my feelings up exactly when she says:

Let the Bishop of Paisley and the Archbishop of Glasgow and the Cardinal of Scotland agree together that they must not, under any circumstances, enter into a same-sex marriage themselves with anyone, nor allow any Catholic priest in Scotland to celebrate a marriage between two men… or two women… That’s their right in a free country: to declare that such marriages are not valid in a Catholic church, no more than a marriage of two divorced people.

But it’s not their right in a free country to tell the Religious Society of Friends or the Humanist Society of Scotland or the Unitarian Church or the Pagan Federation or Sukkat Shalom or any other religious body what they should do.

Hail, Venus! Χαίρε, η Αφροδίτη!

A month ago, I wrote a blog post about… well, about money. As you can tell, I’m still not entirely comfortable even talking about the stuff. However, I’ve done as I said I would in that post: I’ve read Tara Gentile’s ebook, and joined Leonie Dawson’s Goddess Circle.

More about Goddess Leonie in a later blog post; for now, that ebook. There’s a lot of common sense in it, and a couple of philosophical positions that I still need to wrangle with a bit.

Money: destructive or creative?

The most useful part of the ebook for me so far though has been Tara’s reference to her understanding of Hindu approaches to money:

I am no expert in this particular tradition but it seems that Hindu culture sees money as a creative, procreative force – not a destructive force.

Lakshmi, Hindu Goddess of Good Fortune

Lakshmi

This immediately made me think both of Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Good Fortune, and of Venus, the Roman Goddess and astrological force of romantic and sexual love, beauty and (wait for it) money.

Venus as a creative force

Venus is certainly a creative and procreative force! How many babies could be made without sex? How many souls could be fed without beauty? How many communities, families and individuals could thrive without money?

I still have all my angers and frustrations with the financial and economic system as it exists today, both in my own country and at a global level, but it’s a system that I can’t escape. So how can I exist, survive and thrive within it, in a soulful way? I think the answer, for me, may be by engaging fully with Venus, and with her Greek forebear, Aphrodite.

Canova's "Aphrodite"

photograph of Canova's "Aphrodite" by euthman @flickr (CC license)

I’ve begun that process, asking for their help in my money affairs, my business and all my work. May we all exist, survive and thrive, with innocent and joyful hearts. ♥

The corrosive effects of too much sweetness

The spiritual tradition to which I am committed has been going through some difficulties recently. As with many traditions, when the founder or founders die, or simply move on, those who are left struggle to manage their differences and diversity once the focal point of the founder has gone.

The details of the case are not important here. What I do want to talk about is a tendency I have noticed – which I have seen in abundance in New Age groups, but had not seen before among Witches – to stamp on anyone who is trying to raise difficult issues of ethics and integrity, by claiming they are being negative, or attacking individuals.

Spiritual practice is not a replacement for dealing with difficult issues

One way in which this is done in my particular tradition is to suggest that the people raising the difficult issues aren’t doing enough spiritual practice, as if daily energetic cleansing and soul alignment by the individual raising the issues of  ethics and integrity would make the difficulty within the community go away, as if the problem is in the perception of the person raising the issues, not in the actions being pointed towards.

Cleansing and alignment are absolutely necessary, whether one is dealing with human stuff, or relationships with the Divine. But they do not make everything sweetness and light. Cleansing and alignment can make it even more clear and urgent that one must speak and act, just as they can make it clear that silence and stillness are required, depending on the specific circumstance.

The value of conflict

Conflict is always difficult, and it gets a bad rap in spiritual communities, but it is also inevitable and necessary when there are differences between people who are committed to the same thing. Conflict is how we work through difference to a place of resolution – it is part of the path to peace. To suggest otherwise is to say that one person’s comfort is to be bought at the cost of another person’s distress: this is not peace, but bullying.

Demanding that people should stop pointing out issues of ethics and integrity, suggesting  that they just need to do more cleansing and alignment, claiming that they are just making personal attacks on others, demonstrates a fear of conflict, an unwillingness to have one’s comfort disturbed, which I find particularly peculiar among Witches. Where there is fear, there is power – the power, I would suggest, of vulnerability, of openness to one another, of community, of love.

Love, of all things, is not all sweetness and light. Love demands everything.

Saying yes to love

Last Tuesday I conducted another handfasting ceremony, this time for a man and a woman who had fallen in love as teenagers, and then been separated for more than a decade. But they found one another again, although they’d been separated by family misunderstandings, thousands of miles, and time. Yet when they met again earlier this year, they met one another – deeply, fully – and said “Yes,” to one another, to love and to life.

During the ceremony, the family members who had separated them so many years before were not only present, but took full part, and gave a personal blessing on the couple and their marriage. It was a privilege to witness, not only such deep love, but also such deep healing.