A Wild Healing

Snuffling For Truth // Find Me @awildlali

The Beauty Of Limits

It’s been a while since I last posted. A lot has happened, and yet some things remain much the same. The journey to wholeness has continued unabated: setbacks, awakenings and ruptures of pure, unadulterated joy have deepened my connection to a consciousness beyond the confines of the limited, egoic ‘I’. It has seemed at times as if I were birthing my Self, assisted greatly by the generosity and awesome power of the Mother herself.

In the everyday world, the outward changes I’ve made (and been forced to make by the power of fate, a power that seemed to know more than I did about the beauty of having faith) mainly, leaving a job that supported the parasitic financial industry and abandoning the vain and empty hope of a ‘bigger, brighter future’ in London,  mean I have become what would, in our current success and upward mobility obsessed culture, be deemed a ‘failure’. I have struggled with this trajectory and yet, something has been urging me on; to try on the dress of failure, learning how to move and breathe in it, has been a freeing experience.

And as I get used to living with the eyes and hands of a beginner (because that’s what it feels like in this new world where the old skin sheds away) and I continue to integrate all that I have learnt piecemeal these last few years, I realise that becoming whole and remaining sane in an increasingly insane world is more of a struggle than it needs to be because our culture – and us, as active participants in it – refuses to acknowledge the central part that limits play in balancing our relationship to the world around us. Over the last few years, I have met people, been to many places, and read and seen things that reminded me of this deep and natural urge, existing in all of us, to live a simpler life that acknowledges the importance of limits.

We have long known that the religions and institutions of humankind all promote limits in one form or another, be they the seven deadly sins or the Noble Eightfold Path, but as the evidence piles up against overstepping such limits – the ice caps melting, the rising rates of (no doubt stress related) disorders and illnesses, the spread of a virulent Type-A/dominator culture from the industrialised nations wiping out the rich tapestry of indigenous knowledge and cultures of the ‘developing’ world – how many of us have been turning our eyes away for fear of the changes demanded of us?

Despite completing my permaculture design course in 2009, a course that gave me a concrete methodology for action in the outer world, and married well with the inner urge to live a simpler life, I have turned away and often strayed far from the path, sometimes, right into the heart of darkness. I refused to accept what I was being shown: that living in harmony with the natural laws of the universe, as evidenced by the study of nature and the communities and creatures that live in close, respectful relationship with her, means accepting that there will be limits on our narcissistic ambitions, consumption and desires. This is a bitter pill to swallow for most of us accustomed to the belief that we are entitled, usually, to whatever it is our fragmented imagination and our dominant culture deems desirable and acceptable.

Personally, it has taken nothing short of a series of spiritual emergencies and crisis for me to accept limits as a welcome – and honoured – bedrock of my life. A return to spirit – and by that I mean a return to revering nature as the gateway to deeper understanding – has given me the courage to accept responsibility for my part in the harm that we as a species are perpetrating on the material and social landscapes around us.

After leaving my toxic job earlier this year, and needing critically to detoxify from the harm that it had caused me, I returned to an organic farm I volunteered at near the beginning of my journey of awakening in 2011. The first time around, intuiting that there had to be more to life than the city rat race, I wanted to connect deeply with nature; this time around, sensing that I had lost my way, I wanted to connect deeply with the Self that I was increasingly, and sometimes alarmingly, becoming aware of. Both Self and Nature are, of course, entwined and inseparable. For in nature, we find our true Selves, and in our true Selves, we find, the source, nature.

What better place than rural Wales, away from the comforts, crutches and distractions of the city, to come to this understanding? I surrendered to the magic of the natural world, in full bloom and in full sun; to the plants that I nurtured and harvested; to the seductions of the river Wye; and to the communion I felt with the other beings around me. Oak tree, robin, snail, all became intimates and confidantes. People too became, for the first time I dare say, equal subjects in this unfolding story called life; a story that is participatory and shared; a story it is our duty and luck to be caretakers of.

It was nothing short of a rebirth. The masks that we grasp to with clenched and bloodied fists as we navigate the ‘civilised’ world slowly fell and gave way to a fragile Self that was finally able to see the light. It is no easy feat to let the masks hang, no easy feat to bare the soul that has been kept in the dark for so long, because its first uncovering is, inevitably, a painful one: in order to heal, we must first be broken.

Despite the pain, I return home a traveller ready to put down roots in the fertile soil of surrender. Permaculture, Islam, Buddhism have all pointed the way for me in the past, but this time I walk forwards with a prayer on my lips, a prayer that does honour to the beauty of limits, a prayer learnt through deep communion with and surrender to nature:

May I never go astray again. May I work with respect for the earth, for myself, and for others. May I embody non-violence in speech, in thought, in action. May I live always in humility, the greatest protector and friend a person can have.

And may all of our journeys of integration be filled with love, surrender and joy.

Let’s Do The Best Job We Can // Gratitude

‘Look what we have right now — how wonderful it is, let’s be grateful and live it the fullest, let’s do the best job we can.’

Nicholas Nixon

Pebbles carried along, rush of river: notes on the migrant’s journey//Part 1

This liminal journey, between birth and death, in which there is movement. Somewhere between night and day, hearts listen, and learn the lessons of migration: keep the sun rising and setting; strive for balance between the culture that shaped us, made us flesh and bone (a culture that we stuffed hastily amidst our belongings as we left) and the alien surroundings we find ourselves in, the surroundings that soon whisper to us our own alienness.

Brought to these grey shores as a somewhat unwilling child, I was not to know of the changes in store, not yet aware of the beauty and tragedy already encroaching into my soul and taking permanent foothold; because as migrants, we learn first how to survive. We learn to forget: the past; the scorching heat; the dusty red earth; the crow’s caw sounding in the streets of our Karachi; home.

We are brought to these shores, but a part of us is also left behind. Loss and longing, memories, well, they become the unsteady bedrock that we build our new lives on: in another universe, I am a doctor, listening to the crow’s caw outside my window, and I speak my mother tongue as it was meant to be spoken, and maybe I am dreaming of what would have happened if…

Then, as we are socialised to our new surroundings (huzzah for schooling), we learn instinctively to negotiate with boundaries: between You and I. Open mindedness is not something to boast about, it is a survival skill, a necessity. I am a child, looking for friendship, for confidences…

As we grow into adults, we learn to live with the new order imposed on us by the external world, hopefully without it invalidating our inner landscape, without the shoes fitting too tight. Strength – standing up, being counted, staying grounded – and Submission – compromise, conceding, surrender, defeat – are the swords we learn to wield in everyday encounters. It’s tough, because the art of living as a liminal being – of being neither from here, nor from there – is not an exact science. Nevertheless, the more we insist on wielding BOTH swords, rather than relying exclusively on one, the better the outcome.

And as our skins thicken, and tongues become ever more distorted, we learn that virtue lies not just in bearing defeat – the loss of our former selves – but bearing it with grace, with equanimity. Unfortunately, for some of us – sometimes, or as a permanent stasis – Night clouds our sight and we are unable to grasp it. We stand in, and retreat into, the dark: afraid and unable to adjust. For others – sometimes, or as a permanent stasis – Day shines too brightly and we merge, ‘assimilate': we follow the light and never find our way back.

Some characteristics of having fallen into the ‘Night or Day’ position (Stances Of The Extremists – both those who hold onto their culture as if it were a fixed entity to be defended against, and those who let go completely of the ties that connect them to their ancestors, to the ground beneath them- are to be avoided):

  • A willingness to assimilate and to negate the I position, to reach for and become the You, the Other, is the result of a need to belong and to connect, taken to the extreme;
  • Experiencing loneliness, neglect, and periods of change and transition can kick start this process;
  • Without a lack of awareness, of having fallen into this state, it is difficult to stop the movement outwards;
  • The end result is that there is no connection to the starting point at all. We lose ourselves in the Other, become a non entity;
  • It is a position of extreme extroversion, and I would suspect is the shadow behaviour of introverts (see Jung’s typologies).

I see little creativity in this position; no potential for growth or evolution of the individual or collective psyches, nor of our communal human culture as the external manifestation of these.

Moreover, the danger in this Day position is that we become hollow imitators, mere succubi, who leach onto whatever it is that we are merging with to provide us with an Identity (read: meaning and significance).

Fundamentally, we are defending against the feeling of shame that is at the heart of this position, the feeling of being different in comparison with our peers. We deal with this by making ourselves nothing. We zero ourselves, and a zero does nothing to move a sequence forwards.

Conversely:

  • Refusing to recalibrate and negating and rejecting the Other’s position, whilst upholding the I as a distinct identity to be defended against, is the result of a need for peace, to maintain psychological integrity, taken to the extreme;
  • Experiencing rejection and violence (in word or deed), a lack of support or empathy from others, and periods of change and transition can kick start this process;
  • In this state there is no connection to others, and no relating. We imprison ourselves in mental constructs, unable to move outwards into the world, into the arena of growth;
  • It is a position of extreme introversion, and I would suspect is the shadow behaviour of extroverts (see Jung’s typologies).

I see little creativity in this position; no potential for growth or evolution of the individual or collective psyches, nor of our communal human culture as the external manifestation of these.

Moreover, the danger in this Night position is an unhealthy desire and fixation on an Idealized Self (read: Identity, see above), and a propensity for violence, both against ourselves and others.

Fundamentally, we are defending against the feeling of shame that is at the heart of this position, the feeling of being different in comparison with our peers. We deal with this by magnifying and fixating on what makes us different, until we are no longer human but an entity marked by extreme rigidity. No ‘missile’ – of hate or love – can penetrate into the lair where the imprisoned human soul hungering for authentic connection lies withering.

Sadly, entering into a ‘black or white’ dichotomy – submission versus upholding, as opposed to submission and upholding – is all too easy: for adults because it is hardwired into our limbic system – the ancient part of our brain that differentiates between friend or foe (and never the two shall meet!) – and in stressful situations (such as during periods of transition) this is the part of our brains that is most active; for children because their still developing (transitioning!) cognitive processes run naturally along black and white lines (‘this is good, that is bad’).

And so, my earliest memories adjusting to this grey land were all about categorising what was Pakistani, and what was not, of what was British, and what was not. Expectations from BOTH sides – the very different milieus of home and school – were at polar ends of the spectrum, and my abiding memory of these early years of adjustment were of feeling shunted from night to day. How I learnt to deal with this movement will be the topic of Part 2.

It is a tiring and beautiful journey, a story of movement.

Pebbles carried along, rush of river.

Synchronicity

“The film The Dark Knight, the Batman film, I saw because I worked with Christian Bale and I was curious to see how he was doing in this film. And I was completely surprised by how utterly dark the film had turned, against all expectations. And yet, although the film was so dark, it did very well with audiences. Somehow, there was something in the air. And film noir always is a consequence of deep insecurities and collapse of finances. It has happened before. Film noir is having its good time. However, some films anticipate this, and they come earlier. The Dark Knight was a clear, clear signal for me.

And at the same time, I, through a total banality, realised that there was something, a huge, major collapse, coming at us. And it was simply [this]: I tried to lease a car and I learned at the dealership that my credit score was abysmal. In trying to find out why, I was told [it was] because I’ve not used mortgages, and I’ve not borrowed money, and I have not used, excessively, a credit card. And you get punished for it. And you get rewarded, with this credit-score system, for spending money that you don’t own. And that was a moment where I said to myself, “There is something fundamentally wrong.” So fundamentally wrong that I immediately withdrew some money that I had tied in the stock market – against the furious, fervent, crazed arguments of the bank, who said, “No!” So I took it out immediately, and four months later the whole thing collapsed.

And 85 per cent of the portfolio was Lehman Brothers! Somehow I sensed there was something coming at us which was severe and very momentous. And the Batman film somehow shook me in a way that I thought there was something coming. Cinema was sensing something.

- Werner Herzog

The Wild

“Outside the walls, the wild remained as close to the surface as blood under skin, though the city-dweller was no longer equipped to face it directly.”

- From The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Stand Still and Welcome

What is it to stand still and let insight come to you as a winter breeze that quietly stings the cheek?

I’ve spent a long time running away, running towards, experience and stimulation. I thought in doing more lay the answer to why I had not got to where I wanted to be. I thought in adding and cleaving layers to my self was the answer to finding peace within; as if I were a separate entity, to be acted upon and a perpetual ‘work in progress’ to be tinkered with. Thought can navigate us to some funny and tragic turnings in our journey sometimes. Constant action is a merry go round, a motion that leads us nowhere, a dog chasing its own tail.

Maybe we can welcome winter’s lesson more, let it work its magic on us. The cold freezes matter, slows down heartbeats, makes us sleepy. We are urged to stand still and feel after the previous seasons of doing, making hay. Often, when we take the time to be with ourselves and turn inward – welcome winter’s gift – we find ourselves confronted with the sting of sadness; and isn’t that what we’re all busy escaping from?

In cultivating the earth, a farmer who works with the processes of nature, leaves manure on the soil under his care for the frost to freeze over winter, ready to be easily worked over and dug into the soil come springtime. This is how the soil is replenished, made fertile again, this is winter’s gift to us as cultivators of soil, cultivators of spirit and of our communal culture. There is no effort needed in this particular kind of cultivation; rest, and a standing still is all that is needed.

Accepting the reality of the natural rhythms both inside and outside of ourselves will help us to get to where we are going.  So welcome winter’s gift.

And so by standing still can we arrive at, and welcome, ourselves? Can we trust and recognize that we’ve been here all along? That there is no seeking, and sometimes, no work necessary for the magic to happen.   

When Magicians Falter…

“For a moment the feeling crept over me that my work, my vision, is going to destroy me, and for a fleeting moment I let myself take a long, hard look at myself, something I would not otherwise do–out of instinct, on principle, out of self-preservation–look at myself with objective curiosity to see whether my vision has not destroyed me already. I found it comforting to note that I was still breathing.”

- Werner Herzog

This Is An Intervention

sun rising

sun setting

night and day

find harmony.

We’ve been numb for too long. Cheap oil fueling our affluence: suburbs full of good schools for the good (lucky) children, material bads bought on cheap credit, rich and empty foods dulling our senses, and in the UK at least, the impulse to drink ourselves to oblivion. Our eyes closed with the pleasure of a junkie in sweet repose, we refuse to see what’s coming.

Because it is a choice, you see, whether you see it or not.

Even as our collective privileges are stripped away, even as the twin cults of progress and material prosperity we’ve been led to believe are the Truth are revealed to be the horseshit they are, those with the most to lose as the organizing structures and principles of our societies slacken, continue to fatten themselves for the coming material and spiritual famine that is eroding the edges of our civilization.

squirrels

busy stealing

busy hiding

winter on its way.

Even then, we refuse to see what is coming and it is our choice to remain mute, to stay blind.

Those with far less than 6 degrees of separation between comfort and destitution, between a roof and a bed and the streets, what will they do? Those of us unaccustomed to connecting with the strangers we live next to, to living with less rather than more, with making do rather than paying some underpaid slaves in Bangladesh to make more, what will we do?

Real contentment – the kind you can’t buy, or steal off the poor – is beyond our reach if we do not open our eyes to the reality unfolding before us. But first, the hyper unreality of our modern world – its fixation with bright lights, its constant agitation and stimulation – must be done away with. We must return to a semblance of a natural existence. An existence where both light and dark are accepted as natural facts that place limits on our behavior, and transgressing these limits is neither desired nor turned away from in ingratitude. An existence that accepts that we are not entitled to have our dreams come true, indeed an existence where those dreams and desires involve something simpler – the joys of companionship, pleasure found in community and family, above all a way of life that is as simple, and as beautifully complex, as a tree maturing to completion in a forest. Not a way of life that cuts down that forest.

night hints at it

holds a wildness that cannot be severed

cannot be cleaved.

when we do not recognize this sacred truth

our own sacred nature

this wildness we recognize,

when we step out of

modern culture

and visit Mother,

will devour us.

1 in 3 people suffer from mental health issues.

To be fair:

I’ve not met anyone who doesn’t in one form or another.

So

when will we stop cleaving?

And

start to integrate the night instead?

Because

the problem is not out there,

it is here:

In our hearts.

We must heal.

When we attempt to hide from our inner shadows, our inner night, our inner wildness, we refuse to acknowledge the fact that we are driving ourselves to extinction with our addiction to the borrowed light that the sun and earth have gifted us. We are burning through it like the addicts we are and we are burning through everything else in sight. It is terror we make with our own hands. We do not want to acknowledge that we are also the monster and not just the hero. We must abandon false hope, and embrace the courage to see ourselves for what we really are. For that is what is needed for healing to enter our hearts.

We must risk getting lost in the darkness. So ask the forest where your wildness is. Ask the forest, or wherever Mother lives, and it will awaken the night in you. Bit by bit, look at it, be curious, ask questions, and hold it without it burning you. Like a thread undone, you will uncover the secrets to your own heart, your own discontents, your malaise, and you will uncover your own wild healing.

Then you can listen to the roar of the ocean crash against the shore, let it quiet the noise inside, and make space for the rising sun as gently as the ebb and flow of the great sea.

Softly softly catches the monkey.

The Function Of A Trickster

“it is the truth, a force of nature that expresses itself through me – i am only a channel – i can imagine in many instances where i would become sinister to you. for instance, if life had led you to take up an artificial attitude, then you wouldn’t be able to stand me, because i am a natural being. by my very presence i crystallize; i am a ferment. the unconscious of people who live in an artificial manner senses me as a danger. everything about me irritates them, my way of speaking, my way of laughing. they sense nature.”

- C.J. Jung

The Art

…freedom is not an ideal, a thing to take place eventually. The first step in freedom is the last step in it. It is the first step that counts, not the last step. What you do now is far more essential than what you do at some future date. Life is what is happening this instant, not an imagined instant, not what thought has conceived. So it is the first step you take now that is important. If that step is in the right direction, then the whole of life is open to you. The right direction is not towards an ideal, a predetermined end. It is inseparable from that which is taking place now. This is not a philosophy, a series of theories. It is exactly what the word philosophy means – the love of truth, the love of life. It is not something that you go to the university to learn. We are learning about the art of living in our daily life.

The Art Of Living In Our Daily Life ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

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