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.