The Week in Stars: Oct 19th-25th

VENUS OPPOSITE NEPTUNE

Venus kicks off the week with an exact opposition to Neptune, whose orb of influence you may have felt over the previous week.

Planetary oppositions always foment fertile tension; times when opposite sides of ourselves, and lives, come into conflict. This conflict often manifests itself in inner and outer dramas – personal crises, in which we either feel compelled to choose between these opposing forces, or negotiate healthy ways of reconciling them.

As we are currently experiencing no less than two oppositions between earth and water signs, the central drama is between the practical demands of day-to-day existence, versus the emotional extremes and needs of our inner, spiritual lives.

It may feel like these two opposing concerns are inhibiting one another. We want to get our heads down, work, be productive, economical, but our emotional lives are distracting and tormenting us. Conversely, you may also feel like you need emotional, spiritual, and sensual fulfilment, but the ordinary, workaday demands of economic routine are obstructing you. The exaltations of your heart keep getting buffeted; dragged disappointingly back to earth.

The warring energies here are the opposite signs of Virgo and Pisces.

Venus in 2nd decan Virgo is not a very warm place for personal relationships. Though it is motivated by the desire to help and serve others, as it idealizes self-sufficiency above all other virtues, it is reluctant to receive the same love or help it offers. This can make for difficult relationship dynamics, in which people’s self-containment creates too many barriers for warmth and vulnerability to be readily shared. We would rather lose ourselves in the escapism of work, than confront overwhelming emotional realities.

But, overwhelming emotional realities (and unrealities) is exactly what Neptune provides. Empathic, extremely sensitive, and totally oblivious to all boundaries, its Piscean energies demand not the security of routine and self-containment, but the surrender to higher forces and emotions.

Venus in Virgo hates this. It would like nothing more than to obliterate these emotions entirely, so its disciplinary influence can remain unchallenged. Neptune feels the opposite – it wants to dissolve the mundane restrictions that inhibit its emotional and spiritual life, so that dreams, loves, and fantasies can flow freely, without being impeded by the necessity of harsh realities.

The one commonality they share is isolation. Virgo withdraws to work without distractions. Pisces withdraws to so that its vulnerability does not have to be threatened, as it seeks inner escapism.

A very hermetic aspect, as Neptune is related to sickness, this withdrawal could manifest as illness, hospitalisation, loneliness, or melancholy. Politically, its separation may also coincide with the imposition of more lockdown measures.

JUPITER MEDIATING

All is not lost however! In-between these two major players is Jupiter, trining Venus, sextile Neptune. Jovially injecting joy, good cheer, and fortune into the above dichotomy, Jupiter brings the promise of good luck into one’s earthly life: more work, more money, stoic optimism, and good news related to the buying or selling of houses.

This energy may also impel strait-laced, workaholic Virgo to lets it hair-down, and celebrate a little; overcoming that Neptunian opposition to come together with others, and place premium on the humanistic value of bonding, fun, and enjoyment. With Neptune’s influence, this could definitely involve more than a little drink and indulgence, as the Dionysian sides of ourselves are granted release.

Venus in Virgo can very easily get bogged down in obsessing about the little details of everything. Jupiter can help her to pull her face away from the microscope, and see the bigger picture; whilst also injecting more humour and optimism into Pisces’s often melancholic, or unrealistic, fears and fantasies. The earthiness of this trine should shield that optimism from going too far in the other direction.

MARS STRIKES BACK

Mars in retrograde, however, is not done sticking its oar in. Squaring Jupiter this week, all this watery and earthy introversion is ill at ease with impatient Mars, who, frankly, in the face of this hard work, and deep emotionality, wants nothing more than to have fun, and pursue his desires without obstruction.

But, as this aspect more or less ensures obstruction, and the destructive potentiality of over-blown egos, it will be important to learn to restrain yourself, resist impetuosity, and apply your energies in more productive areas.

SUN IN SCORPIO OCTOBER 22nd

As The House of Death, Scorpio transits are always interesting, because they offer us a chance to engage with the deep, mystical sides of existence we usually suppress. Most of the time, in order to be effective and align ourselves with the demands of the world, we repress our emotions, our dark side, our spiritual inclinations, and bestial desires. Modern day society leaves little space for the exploration of these parts of our psyche. Mostly, they are indulged in secret; little pockets of darkness we keep well away from prying eyes, so the image we convey of ourselves does not get polluted.

But, with Sun in Scorpio, these repressed states force themselves into our awareness. With a heightened sense of the unknown in life, we feel compelled to cast light on the hidden; to consort with sea monsters; exhume ancient tombs; find out the propaganda-free truth of our own personal demons. Rather than ignoring and denying the unknown, both in the world, and within ourselves, this is a good aspect for actively exploring it.

Exactly sextiling Pholus over the weekend, anticipate surprises, and unexpected developments. Scorpionic energy can bring out streaks of self-destruction and sabotage, so keep a close eye on your habits and motivations.

LILITH IN TAURUS

Lilith is a point of personal power, sex, manipulation, selfishness, blind spots, and pursuit of one’s own desires at the expense of others. After a seven-month streak in Aries, she will enter Taurus on the 21st, where she will remain until July 18th, 2021.

This transit could make us considerably more money, business, and work-driven. But we must caution ourselves against viewing every decision from the stand-point of economic self-advantage. At the risk of making us materialistic, we must be careful not to exploit others solely for personal profit, or allow ourselves to be so used in turn. People may feel more inclined to choose partners for the sake of financial, sexual, or domestic security and comfort, rather than actual love during this period.

If you wish to learn more, please DM me, or contact me via WhatsApp, or write to me at reubenftourettes@hotmail.co.uk

Moon And Memory

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I have been trying to work on my relationship with The Moon.

 
For much of my life, I’ve passed oblivious of her phases. With ceilings and cuboid rooms robbing me of my divine connection with the sky, on reflection, I don’t seem to be able to conjure up a single adolescent memory of her. If the Moon existed for me as a child, it was as a cartoonesque caricature – a crooked-chinned crescent occasionally anthropomorphised on animations. It feels almost like sacrilege to admit this – that the very mother of my being should have gone unnoticed for so long.

 
Yet, she was still present in the macabre fertility of my imagination; in my childhood fear of witches; the horror of the spinning dreamcatcher outside my bedroom, which, far from being a reassuring apotropaic talisman, was more of a web in which my morbid imaginings could become entangled. If Hecate was working her magic, it was here she kept me ensorcelled.

 
In my teenage years, that is where the nightmare of The Moon really began to creep in; The Goddess host of camping parties, ruling over insomnia, madcap thoughts, of music that transcends time and space, echoing on into the night. She makes the midnight leaves rustle in summer; enlarges the secret caverns within your skull. But, even then, she still only existed as a thing on mystic peripheries; a secret director of my fate, enwrapped in seeded memories, tender, nascent.

 

One of my most potent and intimate memories of her is of an invasion. At 21, I was living in the top-floor room in a three-storey house in Leominster. The room was blessed with a slanting sky-light. It must’ve been facing South, because, whenever the Moon was full, at her zenith, she would creepingly stare directly through that window, as though it had been built for that very purpose; the walls illuminated by her opalescent light.

 

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Had you been naked in there with me, you would have seen your flesh rendered divine – a sparkling shadow of marble or howlite – a moonstone, secreted in skin, dribbled out into pearls, uterine, life-giving, dreamy, terrifying as it was beautiful; a thing that crawls into your bones, deliquescing sanity into delicious madness.

Not only madness, but mischief. When I moved in with a girlfriend in Newport, a student house filled with eccentric artists, budding photographers, and at least one repentant east-end gangster, I quickly realized the women had synchronized their periods to align with the full Moon, and, when I saw the great goddess waxing, I enjoyed teasing them with a knowing wink. They did not mind. I’ve always been both effeminate and androgynous. I exist very naturally within a sisterhood.

 
But, over-time, this madness turned malign. Instead of revering her, I came to fear the Moon. I noticed how crises seemed to naturally cluster around her. If she’s a midwife, then she was also Lilith, Mother of Abortions – mystic mistress of plans derailed, of all that goes awry.

 
On one occasion, I had planned to make a joy-ride on an untenanted boat. I was trying to make a film – an abstruse, psychological horror about a voyeuristic film-maker who finds himself pursued by the camera-wielding denizens of a nocturnal otherworld – and had conceived a scene in which the protagonist takes a dreamy boat-ride down The Wye.

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I walked along the Wye regularly, and for months had been aware of a boat tethered near a weir, that I had yet to see anyone use. Confidently assuming it was abandoned, and could easily be commandeered harmlessly for a few hours, I excitedly put together a ‘cast’ to join me, even picking up an oar en route.

 
But alas! For the first and only time, as we approached that section of the river, on the evening of a full moon, we found a fisherman untethering the boat, looking with great hostility on such an obvious band of maurauders as ourselves. We left in a state of immense disappointment, our quixotic hearts bleeding. The film was never made, left to fend for itself on whatever plane absurd ideas go to die.

 
The very next day, the debut gig of a band I was to join was cancelled, when the drummer decided to quit at the last minute several hours beforehand. The only benefit of this was that, as the dispute turned into a fistfight, I got to see my rhythm guitarist deploy his incredibly balletic martial arts moves. To this day, I still consider the swiftness and grace with which he was able to disarm his opponent a masterclass of elegance.

 
On another occasion, a year later, the full Moon coincided with a trip to London. I had developed acute asthma only the month before, and found the journey extremely nerve-wracking. My partner at the time – (a queer sort of a fish, but good-hearted in her own prickly way) – had decided to donate her eggs to an NHS fertility program, for which she was prepped for about a month with home-administered, hormone-injections.

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I wanted to be strong for her. But, the whole time, I was in a vulnerable state, adapting ineptly to my new condition; constantly afraid of having an asthma attack, of feeling my airwaves constrict within me, seemingly cutting me off from the rest of my body. Crowds make me panicky at the best of the times; the endemic pollution didn’t help either. I was in an extremely sensitive state, and remember being moved to tears by the sight of a homeless woman weeping outside of a fast food eatery, while its overweight frequenters walked pasted, oblivious, indifferent.

 
The next day, the operation went quickly. I remember the horror of seeing my partner wheeled back in afterwards, still knocked-out from the anaesthetic, oxygen mask on, heart-rate fluctuating wildly on her echocardiogram in post-operative distress.
Some people find the sound of heartbeats soothing. I do not. Anything that reminds me of my heartbeat makes me nervous – that ticking timebomb in my chest that will one day detonate, blasting me out of this reality.

 
We were rushed out of the hospital in undignified haste, and, due to some contractual oversight, my partner was given only a small fraction of the money we were promised – barely enough to cover our travel expenses.

 
Our journey back from King’s Cross was ill-omened from the start. Compared to the reasonably comfortable journey we’d had on the way down, the train was clogged with bodies. We were unable to find the seats reserved for us, or, indeed, any seats all. My partner became very angry and panicky, convinced she was having a post-surgical haemorrhage; for which she blamed me for my inability to assert myself in this scenario, bronchi spasming in my chest.

 
By the time we got back to Newport, we had a blazing row in the darkened station, in which I felt like I’d lost my mind. And I still remember the full Moon beating down on us, occulting serenity, her pearly embers inflaming everything with feverish unreason.

 

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Events like this made me superstitious. Instead of being a time of mystery, maternity, and magic, I came to see the Full Moon as a time of danger – a time of the month to write-off the calendar – in which disasters, emergencies, catastrophes, were to be anticipated as a matter of course. Very often, I would deliberately avoid travelling or making significant plans around this time. And, when it could not be helped, I would contemplate her approaching fullness with dread.

 
You can easily see how, given such apprehensions, legends have built-up of this time as being one of transformation; where god-fearing men turn into werewolves; where the bestial, mad side of us we usually keep repressed, buttoned-down, well-hidden, comes screaming out into the light of night.

 
People try and hide their secrets in the dark. But The Full Moon lets us know nothing stays secret forever.

 
The full Moon shines just as brightly as noon, but in a completely different way. Hers is not the meridian of sunshine, where even the most northerly of places can come to seem as halcyon, as tropical, as an equatorial zone. Instead, she initiates mad carnivals of the unconscious; reminds us we are not just men, but animalistic dreams of the shamanic imperative.

 
If this is the time when tides fluctuate, when uterine linings slough-off to start anew, it is also a great purge of the mind – when the dark underbelly gives birth – when our brains and hearts vomit out all the perverse, overwrought feelings and thoughts, we usually reserve for nightmares.

 
As my knowledge of astrology deepened, I realized I was to blame for the souring of my connection with The Moon – that I had not been nurturing my half of the relationship. If we have a bad connection with the Moon, it’s because we have a bad connection with ourselves; because we deny the divine right of the unconscious mind to express itself. Because we are over-civilized depressives, abjuring the embrace of our own chthonic wildness.

 
Instead of misperceiving her as a malevolent demon, I reminded myself she is the First Mother, the object of countless aeons of sacrifice and worship – in many countries she far outweighed the Sun God in both reverence and splendour – The White Goddess of whom Robert Graves speaks.

Whatever I revere in either my imagination or my dreams, I owe to her. Without her, there would be no moods, emotions, fantasies, illusions; no surrealism, silliness, no sensuality, or divine nonsense – indeed, no colour or expression. Only the aching Apollonian tedium of what is obviously apparent.

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I realized the times in which I had most benefited from these phases, were when, instead of resisting the Moon’s invitation to madness, I had gratefully yielded, accepted, ecstatically welcomed the temporary suspension of sanity.

When my notepads had exploded in a frenzy of prophetic nonsense; when, instead of hiding indoors to diminish her influence, I ran out, frothing and raving, into the meadows of the night, hearing the bestial roar of the wild, phantom animals lurking in every hedgerow, faery splinters emanating from grass stalks, the smell of moon-blossoms, spinning in corybantic circles until the whole world is attacked by vertigo, leaping simply for the joy of leaping, screaming simply for the joy of screaming, allowing my heartbeat to ramp up to tachycardia, then howling all the fear away.

If The Sun embodies what we can see, feel, and perceive, then The Moon is the mystery of everything we can’t. She is what we feel strongly, overwhelmingly, yet can neither fully articulate or grasp.

The Ultimate Muse, keeping us searching for a mysterious transcendent perfection we know can never master. If the sun empowers us with the majesty of egoistic accomplishments, then Selene teaches us surrender to time-cycles, cosmic forces, far greater than ourselves. She does not mature us, but turns us back into children, and that is the greatest maturity of all.

One cannot know the unconscious without knowing fear.

And fear is the beauty of The Moon.

Britain has lost half its wildlife. Now is the time to shout about it.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/26/wildlife-modern-farming-insects-birds?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Something I worry about deeply and constantly. It often irks me how people can be so vocal about the most petulant and trivial of matters, but when it comes to the preservation of the environment – the one thing all our lives depend upon – so many are indifferent and oblivious. It reminds me of the David Byrne lyric: ‘And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention.’ All those issues that arouse so much ire – politics, economics, business, and raising awareness ‘campaigns’ – while important, will be of little import if we do not have a healthy planet for them to take place upon.

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I hate writing posts like these, as I know they can make one come across as preachy and sententious. But isn’t it a pretty fucked up world, where the wildlife of your country – of the world – can be in a state of absolute catastrophic crisis, and you feel like the bad guy for pointing it out? We should hold the land as something inseparable from our hearts, because it is. If it hurts, we hurt. And if the epidemic of mental health problems hasn’t made it abundantly clear, there’s a whole bunch of hurting going on – a vast deal of which I feel is a consequence of constantly interacting with technology, and not our natural environment.

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If the plan out-lined towards the end of this article went ahead, it would be wonderful. But one of the best things I think we could do is to stop interfering with nature – to curb the endless proliferation of houses, businesses, cars, pollutants, pesticides, roads, and other constant, meddling, ugly, needless geo-engineering projects that spring up everywhere, and lead to the habitat fragmentation that is the destroyer of so many unmourned, animal lives. If it were humans dying, and not birds, animals and insects, it would be called genocide; cultural displacement and eugenics. Is a disaster called by another name any less, heart-piercingly awful?

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There it is – I have said my piece – expressed the sorrow and worry that gnaws constantly at my heart. ‘But Nature,’ as some of you has expressed, ‘is stronger than us. If we blow ourselves up in a nuclear war, it’ll still be here when we’re gone.’ I won’t disagree with that. It very much would. But do you really want to wait until you, and everything you’ve ever known or cared for, is dead, before you can see nature re-robed in all its glory? Are you content to lazily let the world go to shit, for innocent lives, vegetal and animal, to be lost – to say goodbye to the daily splendour of flowers, trees, and bird-song – all because our successors – if we have any – may one day live to see them again? I, for one, am not. I am not content to watch a natural holocaust take place, all because this indulgent, Netflix generation – and their irresponsible elders – have more entertaining things or petty polemics to consider.

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Excuse my frankness. I do not have all the answers, and am as much to blame as anyone else. But the change in our perspectives and priorities is the only thing that will see these things restored as they should be in our lifetime. It starts with caring, and having the courage to transform that caring into action. And if enough people participate in that cycle, the bird-song sonata need never have an end.

 

Diary: The Fox On The Kymin

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An ecstatic walk up The Kymin. For the first time in a long time, I have experienced joy in being completely alone. One is never alone in the woods. Everything here conspires to occupy your senses – bird song wreathes you in melodic clusters, and you feel the complete fullness in the emptiness of existence. The air is fresh with flavour, medicinal pine sweeping into my lungs – you just want to grasp every protruding piece of bark in your hands, like Mayan hieroglyphs, that are actually secret keys to organic space stations.

“I pause for a while by a country stile” opening onto a meadow, where, in the coming summer, one’s eyes will be blinded by bluebells. I see the visions of a century’s old boy perched on that stile, and feel impelled to access my own inner child, walking along the stile as on a bucolic tightrope, limbs wrapped around the wooden vine-posts overhead. I look down on a friend’s hilled mansion and marvel at the power altitude can lend to perspective.

I feel happy standing here – all else ceases to matter; no interruptive thirst for conversation, or brooding desire to be touched, when I am already touched by the penetrative essence of the wood. Everything glistens – every rock is a jewel – and the trunks of old trees are the gnarled faces of old men; sylvan spirits that find beauty in the grotesque.

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There are wood nymphs, too, of course – a whole panoply of fair folk, dancing in ecstatic procession behind The Spring Queen of the wood, somehow still gentle, even in the maddest of their March-mad antics.

But the view on top of The Kymin beside The Round House is unrivalled – it is addictive; you look at anything else, and it only makes you want to look at it more. There is a beauty to the cluster of town houses in that expanse of free landscape; and I pick out all the places I am used to experiencing at insect-level: the row of path-lining aspens down Vauxhall Fields – the single oak that stands as an Axis Mundi in its centre – the spire of St. Mary’s – and the many Welsh mountains beyond.

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Families chatter around the railings – unappreciative parents stuck in irritable protection mode – imagination-led children – and people picnicking in a square field circumscribed by electric wire.

It is interesting to hear how birdsong develops this time of year. Robins, who whistle so thinly, sadly, in winter, become full-throated. Blackbirds, who began singing at the end of February, uninspired, and repeating the same half-meant phrases, as though cleaning the cobwebs from their syrinxes, have now really taken to their theme. You can hear the languor-suppressed passion and excitement in every phrase they sing, occasionally taking the best-loved phrases of their combatants, and then striving to make them better, like duelling saxophonists and trumpet players in a throbbing bebop band. I have occasionally heard the explosive rapture of the blackcap, but I do not think they are in full-concerto mode quite yet.

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But, until The Universe grants me more longevity in love, Nature will remain my First Woman. I shall cling to her – hide myself in the verdancy of her bejewelled clothing; loving getting to know even smallest parts of her – the flowering of wood anemone – the perfect meditation mats of mineral-encrusted boulders – the primroses, common speedwells, forget-me-nots – the effortless affability of daffodils – the duelling riverine currents of The Monnow and The Wye.

There’s something deeply therapeutic about the sun in spring and summer; the way it penetrates your skin and sinks inside your soul, chasing even the weediest of your dark thoughts away.

But now for the crème-de-la-crème: while still sat on my woodland stile, without either of us thinking of it, a fox sauntered unexpectedly by. His coat was faded from dirt and hunger – but I was so awe-inspired, honoured, majestified at having this prince of creatures stood so near to me, that I sat there, slack-jawed, unable to look away.

But, once we’d both gotten over this little spell, as though returning to the normal rules of things, he scampered over the new-grassing meadow, intermittently looking back to see what I was doing – a fox looking back at a fox. Sylvan muse indeed!

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There is something very shocking about spring now. I am so much impaled on the point of every moment, that each moment seems eternal. Like laying on the slope in Chippenham Park yesterday, nailed to the ground by the rays of the sun. I felt like I would always be there – and, in the intensity of mixed joy and heavy pain, I had little to prove me otherwise.

And now, sat here, blue tit and great tit beeping out to one another in crystalline Morse code, I can feel the light heaviness of that eternity again – just page and pen, page and pen – on and on into the sunset.

I’m definitely feeling healed now.

Coming up here is one of the best things I could have done.

Meditation: The Thingsness of Things

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After finishing my meditation lesson yesterday, one of my students noted how they always felt they experienced reality differently after a deep meditation. While reality usually felt quite bland or flat to them, after a good meditation, he said everything felt richer, deeper, more three-dimensional and solid. As we had just done a meditation on the nature of emptiness, I was quite surprised to hear him use the word ‘solid,’ until I realized he was talking about The Thingness of Things: a phrase I use which describes experiencing each thing and phenomena exactly as it is, at its utmost blistering intensity.

Most of the time, we only relate to things and phenomena in a very half-assed and dispirited way. We pass a tree we walked past yesterday; we greet a person we see every morning; we unknowingly hear a birdsong that follows us everywhere we go. Because these things have become habitual for us, we treat each of these things – the tree, the friend, the birdsong – as though it is something static, stuck in time, that can never satisfy or delight us. Because we have seen it a thousand times, it has become dull, mundane, and humdrum according to our benumbed senses, always looking for new pleasures, new experiences, new desires.

The tragic thing about this view is that it is incorrect. Every moment is new, every moment is unique, every moment has its own special character that well never be repeated ever again, not even if infinity were to bend over, poke its head between its legs, and eat its own scrotum. Newness is the fundamental nature of each experience – always new, always shocking, always vibrant.

So why don’t most us feel that vividity and uniqueness? It is because of our habituations, and how we have allowed our insecurities to mute the palette of these rich, vibrant moments. We claim we want new, exciting experiences. But most of us are terrified of change, and of anything that threatens the illusory security of our habitual routines. To really experience the uniqueness and freshness of each moment would mean being open, vulnerable, receptive, insecure – it would mean letting down the barrier of our cold comforts, erroneous certainties, and beliefs, and instead just letting things be as they are.

Shine/shamatha meditation teaches us to do this. By mindfully resting in the uniqueness of each moment, without weighing it, analyzing it, or assessing it, we no longer fear being afraid of the startling shock of every moment. This, in turn, effects how we experience reality, post meditation. Each moment, each second becomes like a new century, a new epoch, which disturbs and delights us with its instantaneously known unknownness. Colours become more colourful. Every touch becomes more erotic. Sounds become more soundy. Even things that usually annoy us suddenly become palaces of wealthy delight that cause us to loosen with fertile appreciation.

All this spell-binding depth and luxury can be returned to your reality, just by learning to be still, and rest with all of your feelings and thoughts.

Squeezing the Breast of Death

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In a world where death is an absolute certainty, we will all inevitably have to face what we fear the most. This certainty and fear lurks behind just about all our neuroses, delusions, and obsessions in this life.

We are obsessed with fulfilling our desires as quickly as possible, because we know we might die at any moment, and are afraid that, if we don’t seize them now, we will never get a chance to again. Because desires such as these are born of fear, they generally do little but generate more fear in the process, by making us obsessed with reaching for things that are beyond our current experiences.

The same can also be said of all our ambitions. We know our lifespan is limited, and so we want to do something meaningful with our lives, even though we’re often seldom certain of what shape such meaningfulness should take.

Even though we know we will all die, we still act as though we will not, and put it as far outside our perception as possible, coddled by comforting articles about how everyone will live to one hundred, and cryogenic freezing will make it possible for us all to live forever.

When someone dies, or something comes to an end, we often remark on what a ‘shock’ it is. But given the statistical certainty of it, how shocking can it be? Really, the truly shocking, miraculous thing is to wake up every morning and discover that anything is still here –that anything still vaguely possesses the same form! That is the miracle! That is the fragile delight we should celebrate and be amazed by!

Instead of ignoring death, the Buddhist approach is to embrace death and impermanence, and to factor that awareness into everything we experience. However lovely or painful something is, we remind ourselves that it too will pass, and so we cherish and appreciate it, whilst not making things more difficult for ourselves by foolishly clinging onto it, thinking it will last forever.

In this sense, meditation is very much like practising for death.

In meditation, we rest our attention in nothingness, and dissolve all our senses and perceptions into one. Unlike in our day to day activities, when our mind is usually focused on a set of specific sensory experiences, in meditation our consciousness rests nowhere in particular.

Because our consciousness rests in emptiness, it is experientially closer to death. This is why The Tibetan Book of the Dead is praised as a manual for both living and dying. By teaching us to prepare for and experience death whilst still living, it fundamentally enriches our sensitivity to life.

With enough experience, death and life no longer appear to be starkly contrasted poles, but instead a seamless continuity. We see death in life and life in death. We are aware that we are already dead whilst living, because we were never truly born to begin with.

When such an awareness becomes crystalline and informs our daily life, death truly loses its sting, and becomes something to rejoice in.

 

 

Bum Appreciation Day

People pose during a performance at the Ernst Happel soccer stadium in Vienna

It just occurred that toilet paper, one of our most used necessities, is all just to feed our bums, and keep them nice and clean and happy. How special our bums should feel at having such attention and commodities showered upon them! Isn’t it great having a bum? Let’s celebrate having bums. PARTY!

By extension, whilst I realize I’m often aware of my own bum and how delightful it is, I do not feel I spend enough time acknowledging other people’s bums, and telling them how delightful they are. Perhaps we should have a Bum Appreciation Day, and go around telling everyone how nice their tuchises are. Everyone would be so happy. It would be such a great way to make everyone feel loved and included. Isn’t it nice to share?

Groundlessness

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One of the most important teachings in Buddhism is the Mahayana doctrine of Shunyata. This doctrine teaches us that everything we experience – right down to the senses we use to experience – is nothing more than pure, radiant, empty space.

This notion is very difficult for most people to grasp. To us, experientially, most things appear to be physical, tangible, graspable, almost fixed in their solidity. But, even quantum physicists proved that reality is fundamentally empty – that the atoms and particulates that seem to comprise reality are largely constituted from empty space.

In this regard, reality is no more than empty space masquerading as solidity. It is like watching a film at the cinema. The figures on screen may look very real, as though you are literally watching this scene unfolding in the flesh in front of you. But, on investigation, we find that it is nothing more than an arrangement of lights being projected onto an empty screen.

Empty light.

And a blank screen.

So, behind all displays of multiplicity, color, and movement, there is always that primal, simple, changeless empty awareness lurking beneath.

Physicists were very disturbed when they discovered this about reality, because it seems to go against our most basic experiences of the world.

However, Shunyata is not just an esoteric doctrine – it is something we can directly apprehend and experience through meditation.

But, Shunyata is no less troubling when we experience it, than when we merely conceptualize it. In the same way that Quantum Physics troubled scientists and caused them to question everything they knew about reality, Shunyata has very much the same effect on the meditator who experiences it directly.

Realizing there is nothing but empty space, we become profoundly uprooted. Everything that we had relied upon, thinking it to be solid, fixed, and permanent, we soon discover to be fluid, impermanent, and ever-changing. There is nothing for us to grasp or take refuge in any more.

Everything become groundless.

Even though this groundless empty space is so essentially healing, loving, nourishing, relaxing and aware, it is such a shock to the system to discover it is everywhere, that it can actually trigger a sense of terror and panic in us. Where can I go? What can I cling to? Where is the safe house I can hold onto to keep me safe from the vagaries of the world?

The answer is nothing, nowhere, and no one.

Life is dangerous, perilous, and can be extinguished at any possible moment.

This knowledge should not be a cause for sadness – rather it should be something we rejoice in, and take delight in. Instead of fleeing the fear, we should embrace it, and learn to feel grounded in groundlessness.

This groundedness is not based on anything we are attached to or reliant upon – instead, it is grounded in the confidence of our awareness of the indestructible nature of ultimate reality.

For that ultimate reality is emptiness, and it is indestructible.

It is this groundlessness which we should be grounded in.

Knowing this can give us a great sense of bravery and pride at living at all. Even the solid earth beneath us is like shifting sand that could break or give way at any moment. And yet, here we are, courageously still living, defiantly still living and experiencing in a house filled with traps and beauty.

Through embracing this impermanence and uncertainty, we find that all things we love and cherish in life are also the most fragile. The flowers we love to see and smell die after they’ve barely bloomed; all our love affairs, friendships, and relationships could end at any moment, whether from death, distance, an ill-timed argument, or any number of other circumstances. A baby can be born from a sexual union so brief, it couldn’t even be measured as a wink in the fullness of infinity.

Everything is always coming together, falling apart, and then coming back together again.

It all comes and goes from that emptiness.

So what is there to be afraid of?

Ground yourself in groundlessness – face everything you fear to fear – and your fears will go away.

 

Mindful Love

00-fusionart-painting

The Chaos of Love

Everybody wants to experience love and loving relationships in their life.

But, very few people question their true motives for wanting a relationship, or contemplate just how deeply and violently love will impact every level of their life.

In wanting love without fully understanding it, we are like people who want to sail in the middle of a dangerous ocean, without first learning to swim – we will very quickly find ourselves overwhelmed.

This is why love is so powerful. Because it is so overwhelming, and can seem so chaotic, yet harmonious, it forces us to radically face who we are. Love is the ultimate leveller of the playing field. It strips all the certainties and illusions out of life, and forces us to face what we have always hidden from – ourselves, and the nature of reality itself.

We may think we are all different. But, in love, we are all the same. Once in love, we all have the capacity to experience the highest of happinesses and the deepest sorrows, as well all the jealousy, madness, passion, tranquillity, self-grasping, and self-losing that comes in-between.

Because love makes us all the same, it helps us to disentangle from the bondage of our egos which always want us to be better than everyone else. Love empowers us by making us humble. By lovingly placing the importance of all beings before us, we become important to all beings.

A Question of Love

So, we have two choices when faced with love:

  1. We can be self-grasping, and flee from it, not having the bravery to face our own vulnerability.
  2. Or we can be self-losing, and completely surrender ourselves to love. We allow it deconstruct and destroy us, so we come out the other side, selfless, gentle, and fearless.

This is why I ask you to be mindful in Love, and to always question your own motives. In loving someone, and wanting to be intimate with them, are you willing to be completely honest, open and free with them? Or is it just a subtle case of manipulation, in which you use that person in order to increase your own gratification?

Many of us do the latter, without even realizing it. We want relationships that promise to resolve all our problems, and make our lives luxurious, easy, and comfy.

Taking the clothes off your Heart

But love is not easy. It is most difficult and challenging thing we can ever face. It uproots every illusion we’ve ever held about life, and gives us a chance to confront and come to terms with our most selfish aspects.

In this respect, our lovers or partners are not cushions against the blows of life. Instead, they are like warrior teachers, who constantly test the depths of our selflessness. They challenge us to commit to being completely authentic in absolutely every situation, regardless of how terrifying and groundless that may feel.

In the same way that we must take off our clothes off to make love, we must take the clothes off of our hearts in order to be love.

A naked heart is a brave heart, and the only one worth having.

And if you are brave enough to do that, than you are brave enough to love.

Animal Blog: Wild Robins and Domesticated Humans

robins

I was just in the garden, watching two robins fight, and fend off one another against their territories, when I was struck by a crucial difference in which animals relate to their world.

When observing wild animals in nature, we seldom see any genuine displays of clumsiness. Even though the fight must have come as a shock to both of the robins, and adrenaline must have been pumping, because all wild animals are thoroughly grounded in living states of constant vigilance and alertness, even shock is beautifully embraced and perfectly responded to as one of the perfect vicissitudes of nature.

After the initial explosive contact of the robins, both of them scattered on either side of my pool, and flitted about, upright and proud, ready for the next move. Everything in this display was so perfectly arranged and harmonized, it was almost like the whole thing had been pre-choreographed by some Grand Harmonizer, and the two fighting birds were following the dynamic of this pre-set structure.

The reason the two birds were able to respond with such agility and dignity, is because they have The Way. They live in accordance with the principles and methods of nature. They know their environment with an alarming and effortless thoroughness. They simply know how to respond to things, because their sense of involvement and integration with the world is exceedingly refined.

We do not see this refinement in domesticated animals, who have usually been separated from their environments, and been subject to such comfort and docility, that they begin to become clumsy, because that sense of relating to a living environment has gone.

We especially do not see this in Domesticated Humans who live in environments that have purposely been rendered null and dead. There is no sense of responding to what is in our environments, because most of what is in our environments is automated and man-made. It is expected to respond to us, and not the other way round.

Because of this, our sense of organic responsivity has become desiccated. Everything shocks and stresses us, because out artificial environments have tricked us into thinking that everything should be soft, comfortable, and capable of ordering and managing at the press of a button. Without the hardships of a living world to test and challenge us, our hardships become softships, which only render us winy, irritable and feeble. Comfy sofas, cinema-sized TVs, and mechanized espressos have taken all the physical and mental training out of life.

This is why the two things that people complain about the most are the weather and other humans. Amongst our world where we have ignorantly deceived ourselves into thinking we control all the variables, other humans, and the natural forces of our environment, are two things the majority are incapable of manipulating or controlling. We cannot change the attitude or actions of those around us just by briefly pushing a button. We must interact with them fully in order to understand and transform them, simultaneously transforming ourselves in the process, because there is no self and other. Other humans are the only things that still test our responsivity.

And, for this, we should always be grateful to them, no matter how belligerent, difficult, or challenging they are. Because, in a dead environment, interacting with other humans is the only thing that keeps us human. They are constant tester of our Integrity and Authenticity.

Thus I thought as I saw two robins fight on the edge of my pool.