Close your eyes and listen

Canal

BY JANE REDFERN

Nature isn’t just for the eyes. It also whispers in our ears.

I hear a dog bark further down the canal. Children’s voices are interspersed with their mother’s voice telling them to be careful near the water. There’s a gentle rustling of leaves, birdsong, the sound of a car passing by.

Then suddenly amid all this, a new sound grows louder: a chug chug chug… The sound of the barge gets louder and louder, making its presence felt, filling the space with colour and the sound of rushing water. It passes me by and then it all fades away again. It vanishes from sight and I can only just hear it in the distance. A moment longer and there’s nothing left at all, the sound has imperceptibly dwindled and dissolved. I am left with nothing but the memory of it passing. When did the sound of the barge disappear exactly? How long did I hear it for in total? How long did it hold my mind in thrall? Maybe these are meaningless questions, or maybe they are meaningful. They have much to tell us about how our mind listens to life – or not.

Life goes on, moment by moment. The sounds of the dog, the wind, the birds, the mother, and the children return to the forefront of my awareness.

The water is still now. I focus on the reflection of the cloud in the water and watch as it silently floats out of sight.

“To a birds song I listen, not for the voice, but for the silence following after the song.” Yone Noguchi.

 

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The Evolution of Man (the sixth great extinction)

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The Earth doesn’t need saving, humans do.

A lot of people are talking about ‘saving the earth’. They proclaim their intention is to protect the earth and to save it from human activity.

But the Earth doesn’t need saving. It’s humanity’s health and survival that is at stake.

The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. It has survived asteroid strikes, and much more, and will still be around long after we have gone. It will be destroyed about 7 or 8 billion years from now when the sun balloons into a red giant. In contrast, our human ancestors were around about six million years ago, with the modern form of humans having evolved only about 200,000 years ago. Civilisation as we know it is only about 6,000 years old and industrialisation started in the earnest only in the 1800s. We are all but a tiny speck in the history of the earth.

There is no doubt that human activity is harming the Earth’s natural systems, threatening entire ecosystems and the extinction of many species. But Nature is good at eliminating anything that threatens its equilibrium – i.e. humanity. We ourselves depend on those natural systems and species that we are destroying for our own survival.

It’s not all gloom though. Like the planet, life is very resilient.

We are now deep into the sixth great extinction. Of the previous five great extinctions, the most serious was the Permian-Triassic extinction event 252 million years ago which wiped out 90-95 per cent of all species. The most recent, triggered by an asteroid strike 65 million years ago, wiped out about 75 per cent of all species, including the dinosaurs.

But life itself continued.

Scientific studies have incontrovertibly established that human gluttony and pollution are causing the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. If current trends continue, half of all species will be extinct within this century. One species to which we are greatly attached – homo sapiens – us – also may not survive. An event that would probably make the rest of life on earth breathe a collective sigh of relief.

But our future is not necessarily all dark and dismal. In her 2014 book, The Sixth Great Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert calls us a “Weedy species” who “has unwittingly achieved the ability to directly affect its own fate and that of most of the other species on this planet.” Like cockroaches and rats we can live pretty much anywhere, breed, and more worryingly, shape and bend our environment to our own ends.

But, protecting life on Earth, including our own species, requires a radical transformation of society.

Cell biologist, Bruce Lipton, in his book Spontaneous Evolution, says “Crisis ignites evolution. The challenges and crises we face today are actually signs that spontaneous change is imminent. We are about to face our evolution.”

But how will the evolutionary advancement of humans come about? Lipton describes our path as being similar to that of cells in the metamorphosing butterfly larva. “When provided with a new awareness, the cellular population that comprises the deteriorating larva collaborates to restructure their society in order to experience the next highest level of their evolution.”

So the chances are that humans will survive, although potentially in smaller numbers, and possibly driven back to a more basic way of life. What might need saving, if indeed it is worth it, are parts of our current ‘civilisation’, a civilisation that is radically altering the Earth, creating mass extinction and undermining the basis for its own survival. The parts that might need ‘saving’ are the good bits such as the scientific advances, creative masterpieces and quality of life.

Even though Nature is nudging us toward this exciting possibility of a more evolved human race, it cannot happen without our participation. We are conscious co-creators in the evolution of life. We have free will. And we have choices.

Our success (and survival) is based on our choices, which are, in turn, totally dependent on our awareness.

Protecting life on Earth, including our own species, requires a radical transformation of society, a new way of relating to the Earth, its many species and each other. It needs a planet-wide civilisational shift which will allow our species to evolve.

Just a glance at the women’s magazines in the local supermarket shows that the shift has already begun. A new type of human is evolving, one who is more spiritual looks after their own health and the wellbeing of other species that we share this planet with. Will these new spiritual, minimalist, yoga-loving vegans be the ones who ultimately save humanity from themselves?

Image: Fotolia.com

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Understanding how our unconscious brain controls our lives

NatureMuch of the dysfunction that runs in families is caused not by a lack of knowledge or education but by a lack of awareness. A conscious person is able to maintain a certain level of awareness in their daily life. There will always be lapses but where there is no awareness (mindfulness) you relate to other people through the conditioning of your mind.

Our unconscious brains consist of primitive instinctual behaviour and information that we cannot access. The unconscious brain is far more powerful than the conscious brain but it can contain loops of behaviour that are not particularly good – such as smoking or over-eating. We need to identify these undesirable behaviours and break the repeating pattern. The only really effective way of doing this is to access the unconscious brain and change the belief/pattern. This can be done through hypnotherapy, meditation and regular (daily) journaling. Just listening to someone or reading a self-help book would be ineffective because the instructions would only be observed by the conscious brain.

One of its main objectives of the unconscious mind is the survival of our physical body. It will fight anything that appears to be a threat to that survival. It also handles all of our basic physical functions (breathing, heart rate, immune system, etc).

The unconscious does not process negatives. It absorbs pictures rather than words. So if you say, “I’m not going to eat any more doughnuts,” the unconscious generates a picture of you eating doughnuts.” We have to switch the picture from the negative to the positive. It is better to tell your unconscious, “I’m going to enjoy eating more salads.”

To protect us, the unconscious stays alert and tries to learn lessons from each experience.  For example, if you had a bad experience giving a talk, your unconscious may choose to lump all of your learning experiences into the “I’m not good enough” category. It will signal you with sweaty palms and anxiety whenever you attempt to do it again. But if you do well in, say organising a cake sale at the local school, your unconscious will remember that “organising cake sales equals success” and you’ll feel positive and energised whenever the opportunity to organise a cake sale comes up.

If you are not consciously aware of the patterns in your behaviour you find yourself in the grip of emotional/mental reactive patterns and beliefs that you observed from your parents (mainly before the age of six) and the surrounding area that you grew up in.

These patterns usually go back countless generations into the distant past. However, if you can identify these behavioural patterns and become aware of these mental, emotional, and behavioural patterns you can make a choice about how to respond to people and situations. If you can connect with your soul (or Self) you can form deeper relationships.

The unconscious is very complicated but even just understanding the basics will help you harness its power.

Read more here on how to introduce more mindfulness into your day. I find that just making myself stop every now and again, and think about what I am doing and why helps me to keep connected with the present moment. Hopefully, this practice can help you too.

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Mindfulness and making contact with a moment in time

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not about creating emptiness, nor is it about producing thoughts. It is about stopping to make contact with the moment, the ever-shifting experience that we are having at any moment in time, and to observe our relationship to that experience.

If you walk in the woods listening to birdsong, you become aware that you are also breathing and having bodily sensations, such as feeling the breeze on your skin. You become aware of objects in your field of vision besides the trees, that there are sounds around you other than the birdsong, that there are thoughts that keep calling you away or making judgments about what you are doing.

Mindfulness means, just as you are about to turn a corner and change direction, you halt your movement and observe, for example, the intention to change direction that is already within you. Saying to yourself ‘I’m going to change direction’ rather than doing it without even noticing.

Mindfulness means making a little space every now and again to see ourselves doing something. You may think that you don’t need to do this in order to change direction. And that is true. However, it may be useful at other times in our lives as it teaches us to be more present in the moment and aware of our surroundings.

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Restoring Nature's divinity

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Slowly we are awakening to the feeling that all is not well in the world. For years we overestimated the importance of the conscious mind, of the person who can talk but whose words are empty, the celebrities, the politicians. For too long we have thought in great abstractions and emphasised control over emotions and instincts. Films like ‘The Secret’ have made prevalent the illusion that anyone could become anything they wished. For years there has been a surge towards conformity, and a desire for material possessions. But all these things being sought are irrelevant to a happy life. Man has become so uprooted from nature that the ‘real natural man’ now finds himself living an utterly inhuman form of life. As a result we have problems with violence, drugs, and addictions. There is a cultural pathological obsession with conquest, speed, success, and machines. Think about when you call your doctor’s surgery and you are met with a menu of buttons to select for recorded information. Hardly good for health or for the mind.

People today often leave the whole of their lives to the direction of consciousness, they go through life on autopilot, forgetting that it is merely the visible surface over the immense living foundation below. Western consciousness has expanded in the spatial dimension but not in the temporal. Modern consciousness was developed mainly through science and technology, not through art, spirituality, or culture. The unconscious has been left behind, suppressing our primitive selves for too long.

We have become highly disciplined, organised and rational. But the less connected we have become to our unconscious brain, the more ugly the uses to which we put our inventions and discoveries. An example is how the care and upkeep of animals raised for human consumption has devolved into an industrial operation focused on maximising economic return while paying little or no heed to the needs of the animals. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Having allowed our unconscious minds to become suppressed we have lost the connection with our primitive ancestors. We clone life forms, develop nuclear and laser weapons, and genetically modify food. All this without adequate consideration of the repercussions.

By focusing almost singularly on developments in the outer physical world, what we have neglected is ourselves. Most people will scoff if told that the psychic processes in modern man are still of great importance. Superstitions and animism have not gone they have simply taken on new forms.

We should see consciousness as a gift that we should align with nature. We have reached the limit of our evolution and we can go no further until we acknowledge the importance of the development of more consciousness and unbiased understanding of all that we are.

We forget that we are primates and thus we should make allowances for these primitive layers in our psyche.

“Man…is a top animal exiled on a tiny speck of a planet in the Milky Way. That is the reason he does not know himself; he is cosmically isolated. He can only state with certainty that he is no monkey, no bird, no fish, and no tree. But what he positively is, remains obscure.” Carl Jung.

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In chaos there is order

Lichen

It’s a combination of order and chaos, somehow indecipherable, yet beautiful. And, if we study it for a while, we start to see some sort of order or pattern.

Lichen is something we commonly see growing on rocks and tree branches. But how often do we stop to really ponder its fascinating, beautiful and intricate patterns?

Initially it looks like it all is in turmoil. We can pick out some patterns but others appear random and beyond our grasp and which we sense will always be so.

But isn’t that also often true of our own emotional experience?

Our emotions can appear random, complex, and hard to decipher. But, when we look closely, we can often find a pattern.

Just as we stop and study the patterns in the lichen, so too we can stop and give attention to our emotions. If we sit still and quiet for long enough we will allow a calm to settle around the chatter of our mind, enough for us to start to see a bit more clearly. We must not try and achieve it by force or by willing it to be so, because that would only trigger more chaos. We must just let it happen, let it come from inside. It takes time.

It cannot be rushed.

In time, we will see the patterns and where they repeat. We may even have a eureka moment in which we perceive the interconnection between disparate concepts or ideas to reveal something new.

“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, and grace - these qualities you find always in that the true artist captures. You can find it in the turning of the seasons, the way sand trails along a ridge, in the branch clusters of the creosote bush of the pattern of its leaves. We try to copy these patterns in our lives and in our society, seeking the rhythms, the dances, the forms that comfort.” Frank Herbert. 

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Listen to your soul

Nature Speaks

I create a bit of space every day when I can sit in silence and allow myself to hear my own thoughts.

In this busy, connected world, with notifications, advertising, and everyone having a voice, I feel it’s important to learn the difference between someone else’s voice and opinion, and my own.

To do this I sit in silence for at least five minutes every day, preferably outdoors. No television, no radio, no phone, no noise, just a notepad for making notes afterwards. I get into a comfortable spot and allow myself to sit in silence. I take a few deep breaths and allow my thoughts to flow.

In creating the space for my intuition to be heard, I’m creating space for the guidance to flow.

If there’s a situation that I’m concerned about or a decision to be made that worries me, I allow my mind to go to the situation and simply allow my thoughts to drift. And, I listen. I don’t question what comes up; I just listen and give my inner voice permission and space to speak to me.

A health problem became my focus most recently. As I sat on the seat in silence, I allowed myself to drift into thought. I pictured the ‘healthy me’ that I ideally wanted to attain. It became very clear what I needed to do to remedy the problem. When I got up from my seat it was clear the food I needed to cut out, and the exercise path I needed to restart. The answer came from my body itself. I listened to my instincts, I listened to my intuition, and I found the right path.

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A fear worse than death

Scary predator

The teenage boys moved forward along the High Street navigating the street furniture and other people without losing their group formation. Their hair styles all looked the same, their clothes looked the same, they sounded the same.

The scene reminded me of an observation by Carl Jung:

“Grazing heads nodded, the herds moved forward like slow rivers. There was scarcely any sound save the melancholy cry of a bird of prey. This was the stillness of the eternal beginning, the world as it had always been, in a spate of non-being for until then no one had been present to know that it was this world.

"I felt then as if I was the first man, the first creature to know that all of this is. The world around me was still in its primeval state and it did not know that it was. And in that moment which I came to know the world, the world sprang into being. Without that moment it never would have been. All nature seeks this goal and finds its fulfilment in man but only the most highly developed and fully conscious man. Every advance, even the smallest, along its path of conscious realisation, adds that much to the world.”

Our fear of standing out and feeling different is sometimes so great that we fear it more than death. It’s a feeling I understand well myself having suffered for many years from a chronic lack of confidence. On the other hand, it seems odd that we’re so afraid. What exactly are we afraid of? What do we think will happen to us? We’re unlikely to suffer any real or lasting harm - or are we? The answer seems to lie in our remote past, in our evolution as social animals.

Most people don’t want to be seen as ‘different’. Not fitting in is associated with being an outcast, an ‘undesirable’. Humans evolved over the last few million years in a world filled with risks like large predators and starvation. Early humans were probably commonly hunted by many of the large predators common at that time.

One defence commonly used by mammals to protect themselves from predation is to live in groups. In a group, members can alert each other to predators and help to fight them off. The advantages of living in a group probably are the reason why early humans and other large primates evolved to be social, and why we are still social today.

Early humans learned to survive by using their wits and collaborating with each other. Those that worked well with the others, helped others and fitted in with well with the group were more likely to survive and pass on their traits to their descendants. Failure to fit in with the social group and getting kicked out probably spelled doom for early humans. It follows that anything that threatens our status in our social group, like the threat of ostracism, feels like a very great risk to us.

In the animal kingdom, ostracism is not only a form of social death, it also results in death. The animal is unable to protect itself against predators, cannot garner enough food, etc., and usually dies within a short period of time. Imagine the herd that Jung talked about. If one of the herd was injured or became separated from the group they would be targeted by the predators. Modern day humans who dare to be different and stand out from the ground risk becoming a target of trolls or of being ridiculed by their peers.

The fear is shared by many people who are faced with getting in front of a crowd and performing such as speakers, artists, athletes, actors, and musicians. They fear being negatively evaluated in anything they do; fear being rejected; fear being abandoned.

We are all afraid of rejection. At a primal level, the fear is so great because we are not merely afraid of being embarrassed, or judged. We are also afraid of being rejected from our social group, ostracized and left to defend for ourselves on our own. Sometimes, it seems that we fear ostracism even more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.

Image: Fotolia.com

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The Sacredness of the Wild

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Dear Human,

Can you feel the spiritual value of the Nature around you? Do you revere the sacredness of the wild that is in your bones, and in places that we must protect for their own sake? As you walk in Nature do you take notice of the physicality of things, knowing that all physical things also have their spiritual dimension? Do you touch the world as you pass by, appreciating its solidity and presence?

That stile over the stone wall – don’t climb it too quickly. Lay a hand on the stone and feel its texture, feel its edges – are they smooth or sharp? Experience for a moment the coldness of the stone. Stop by a tree, stroke its bark and recognise it as another living being. Run your hand over the moss on the fallen down tree and feel how it is still wet from the early morning rain. Gently touch the petals of the primrose flower and feel their softness.

Mindfulness through touch.

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Finding the right balance

Balancing Stones

Sometimes we have to let things fall down so that we can rebuild them the way we want.

BY JANE REDFERN

I hold a large rock in my hand and make tiny adjustments which I imagine are barely discernible to anyone watching.

The rocks will collapse and I will start again.

Life is like that. We build our lives up and sometimes everything will come tumbling down all around us.

Sometimes it will fall down on its own, other times we have to knock it down ourselves in order to rebuild it in the way we want it to be.

It is all experience. The most valuable lessons in life come when we fall down.

As I place rock upon rock I am constantly in awe at the stillness, let alone possibility, of such precarious formations, amidst sometimes very turbulent conditions. This reflects our own potential to maintain a still-point amidst the variety of challenges we each face throughout our lives.

All things are difficult before they become easy.

What is fundamental about the sculptures is their simplicity, with the stones balanced together to create a seemingly impossible composition. The improbable equipoise creates a sense of wonder in the onlooker and gives the sculpture a magical presence, a paradox of fragility and solidity. Just like life.

The stones seem to lock onto each other and stay in place as soon as that precarious yet unmistakable point of balance has been found within them.

The stones decide when they are in perfect alignment with each other and the solar system. The stones reach the point of harmony with each other and the planet. The only thing holding one precarious stone on another is gravity, that incredible force that forms the stars, which shaped the earth, and which holds things together – or causes them to fall down when they are out of alignment.

There is something beautifully simple about deciding to balance stones. Being a grown up in the modern world is so often characterised by planning ahead and the pressure to succeed. An activity like stone balancing is is just on the right side of pointless and therein lies its beauty. The simple decision to do nothing else for an hour other than balancing stones in a river is to surrender to absolute freedom. We can return to the wild abandon of our childhood and open ourselves up to the abundance of the universe.

I stop planning, I stop trying to achieve.

The present moment is all I have.

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