The slumbering elves

The forest elves are sleeping now, we must not wake them!

Ssshh – tread lightly.

Say some that every winter they lay deep in their caverns, gradually releasing all moisture from their bodies.

In a dreamless slumber they wait, their breath slowing to one rise-and-fall a month, their skin becoming as tough as bark.

When spring comes, moisture and light begins to permeate through the soil – the elves stir!

But it takes many weeks to fully awaken and they appear tree-like and terrible in such a state.

This is why so many adventurers mistake them for dryads or more pernicious creatures!

Yet in good time they will again be elves; fair and songful but quick to anger!

It is a fool indeed who contrives to summon them in Winter. They will be weakened for the whole of the year to come without the replenishment of their manas. If they survive at all.

A hundred paths to freedom?

Imagine two scenarios.

In the first scenario Jack stands upon a plain, which reaches off into the far horizon. Leading out beneath his feet are a hundred paths. He can see nothing but the plains and the thin little roads leading off to nowhere.

In the second scenario Jack stands at the top of a commanding hill. He is at a crossroads: the path to the north leads into the forest. The path to the west leads to the mountains. The path to the east leads to the coast. The path to the south leads back to where he came upon the plains.

Who is more free?

In the first scenario Jack has a hundred potential pathways. He has a dizzying array of choice. But he knows nothing of where they lead. The paths simply lead off across the empty plains. There are no point of reference or landmarks, making his return to the crossroads all but impossible.

In the second scenario Jack has only four directions he can go. But he is stood upon a hill and can see where the paths lead. This gives him some idea of what lies ahead. He may not be a woodsman, but he knows what to expect from the forest. Trees, streams, birds, folks living in cabins, maybe a bear or two!

Despite the seeming lack of choices in the second scenario, the freedom Jack has is greater. His choices have more context and have more meaning. He can make an informed decision. And if the forest does not work out he can always back track to the hill and try a different direction.

The first scenario is more like a nightmare. It is flat and featureless. With no context to those hundred choices, Jack will have to choose one at random. This might be exciting and ‘adventurous’ at first, but it will quickly grow tiresome and anxiety-inducing.  As the paths lead nowhere, what is the difference between them? They might as well all be the same.

These are idealized scenarios, thought-experiments to get our minds thinking. But they are not merely abstract mind-games. The society of individualistic values and consumer nihilism is more like the first scenario. For instance there are hundreds of TV channels, but they are mostly awful. The promise of quality is false – advertising cuts programmes into three and wastes hours of your life each week; producers have to constantly churn out shows to meet voracious demand, so the quality is low. A hundred paths, but they all lead nowhere.

It is possible to have genuinely meaningful choices in life, but these require context and purpose. This should be our criteria of liberty – ‘meaningful liberty’. We should do away with any notion of ‘maximizing liberty’ as some indicator of moral good. It is hardly better than tyranny to live in a meaningless society.

So where do we find meaning?

Many of the things that are part of our ‘destiny’, things we do not choose, give us a massive sense of meaning. They are a context around which to build our lives. I think of my old friend, a philosopher of great ability, who sticks by Spurs FC through thick and thin.  As goes the tradition, you find the nearest football club to where you were born and then you support them. You do not ‘choose’ a team, it is given to you. Meaning and belonging is found within that context.

Likewise with your family. Your first relationships are with them. This has a massive shaping effect on your later relationships, even if you do not consciously realize how. It is a lifelong journey of discovery to work through these depths and there are no easy answers. But we do not choose our blood-family. Would we be better off if we did? Would the term family be able to maintain its meaning if we did?

And we can pull back further. The society we are born into and dependent upon, the culture that has been created for us, the first languages that we speak; these are part of our ‘destiny’, not of our choice. Yet without them we are nothing. Meaning comes when we realize that our choices effect not only ourselves, but also other people. To find meaning in society we must realize how our choices and desires are patterned by society – our dreams and aspirations do not emerge out of thin air. Knowing the sources of ideas, we can understand the forces that shaped who we are. Knowing humility, we can then create things for others as much as for ourselves; to live for others as much as we live for ourselves. Someone isolated from society, in an individualist bubble, can find no meaning. They are at the hundred empty pathways, every single one leading nowhere. Every adventurer they meet on those paths is going nowhere.

And then we can pull back even further, for society is dependent on Nature for its survival. Without the living world, we could not exist. The ultimate challenge of meaning goes beyond our lives, beyond our civilizations. It is to discover our place in nature, how our culture interacts with it, how we live sustainably within it to ensure a living world for future generations. This is our ‘destiny’.

Our deepest connection to nature is coded into us, evolving with every generation, yet continuous, leading back to some impossibly distant history which should lead us to nothing less than awe. The seasons and cycles of nature, the creatures which populate the environment around us, the plants and trees; all in incredible variety and multitude. We could not, given all the faculties of our minds, create a more enthralling landscape which can satisfy that natural urge to belong to something real and greater than us.

This is what is meant by the four paths upon the hill. The scope of choice is not so large, yet this is why those choices are comprehensible and have meaning. Where they lead is more clear, what they are is visible. Embracing our finitude and the parts of us that are determined is the key to meaningful liberty. And let us also give liberty its due, for what freedom we can have, we ought to have.

Jack shrugged his shoulders, hoisted on his pack and headed for the coast. He always wanted to try going on a fishing ship and with Spring a few weeks away, this was his chance.

Dreaming – the creative source

Every night a dream can generate a world in tremendous detail.

The dream-mind can populate these worlds with characters. Some known to us, some strangers, some hybridized. It can imbue these characters with souls so that they seem to be sentient and as real as us. Even when these characters are familiar and act completely differently in the non-dreaming world, it is easy to be convinced that they have always been like this. Sometimes characters seemingly interchange – two nights ago my voyage with Rich turned into a voyage with Jack, with no obvious reason why and no clear ‘cut off’ point. He just changed at one point and I accepted this as perfectly reasonable. In fact, it wasn’t until I woke up that I realized it.

Things that happen in dreams seem real and meaningful. It as if they would have consequences for us in the future. The people in dreams have similar moral value as those without. Our dreaming selves make moral choices.

What I find most fascinating is when the dream-mind hybridizes places. It can take the quality of a place and fuse it with another, creating something entirely unique. It can take me to an eco-camp in West London and a mere road away back to the horrors of my primary school in North London. Sometimes a sense of both places can exist at once and they can be fused together. Stranger still you can visit a place familiar to you, but things are different, and it is still familiar.

A dream can be so intense that you can wake up with the feelings you felt at the end of the dream still strong in your mind. I woke at 5am this morning after dreaming of being alone in bed with a storm outside and a suspicious noise, like an intruder in the roof. For about thirty seconds I continued to feel the dream, then realized that thankfully I was in the roof and had two friends in the next rooms. So I wouldn’t have to confront the man in the roof on my own if  he did intrude or attack me. Although outside there was an actual storm.

Being asleep is clearly not just an essential time for rest. It is an intense time of creativity and processing. The dream-mind is full of symbolism which cannot be easily translated into a logical world-view. The symbology must be given great patience and explored in the language of dreams. As this requires immense patience and detail, and as my vivid dreams are so overwhelmingly common, I have done little to truly delve into what is being expressed by my Self.

And there are questions about the ‘validity’ of any discoveries. Is the subconscious some kind of oracle which knows better than us? Or even able to tap into a ‘spiritual’ place of guidance, warning and wisdom? Dreams have been prophetic – I have felt revulsion for a childhood place in my waking life but always dreamed of going there again; living there, finding safety. It hasn’t made sense why I keep going back. But now my conscious mind has shifted its attitude and I want to go back to that place. The dreams were almost like preparation for that return. Now they make perfect sense.

Mysterious or not, every night is an aesthetic journey. Sometimes filled with horror, sometimes heroism. Occasionally, though rarely, with love. The interpretation that dreams are meaningless or sheer chaos is a great silencing to this part of ourselves which can express itself in pure form with such clarity. And the interpretation that it is just wish fulfillment or repressed desire is a simplification of an incredible creative process. Dreams may involve repression and wish fulfillment, this does not reduce them down to this.

Anyone who has ever written a poem, created a new piece of music, come up with an innovative engineering solution, or used any creative faculty will know that it just happens. It will often need editing, polishing, the craftsman’s discipline. But the creation just happens. The place where the ideas emerge from, where they are fused and worked and forged, is certainly not conscious. The miracle of awakened consciousness does not reach into the miracle of subconsciousness, the swirling, bubbling forces which we do not truly have control over and yet enable us to wield such creative power.

When I write a new song, which is very often, it is not the work of a conscious mind. I theorize that it is the same faculty which generates the dream world which enables creativity in the non-dream world. Things are generated, rather than created. Processes are constantly operating beneath the surface of consciousness and when allowed the breathing space to emerge can generate wonders from the very depths of us. I find myself asking: Where did these ideas come from? I did not realize I was capable of this.

It is then a great affront to us if we consider sleeping and dreaming to be a waste of time, or just a means to re-charge our batteries. For the most hardcore citizen of capitalism, who measures worth in their ‘productivity’ and dodges sleep like the devil, caught in their Faustian-pact with caffeine, I see a life half-lived. Not only destructive for themselves but to all of us. Fortunately people are realizing the futility of living to work and ‘waking up’ to the importance of sleeping. The next stop is the importance of dreaming.

Every night, with a good routine, you are likely to be strapped into the original ‘virtual reality machine’. But not one programmed by someone else to immerse you in their vision or story. One that is generated by you, exclusively for you, with the purpose of revealing something deep before you. Nothing could be more self-fulfilling or daring than to go onto that journey.

Part of my goal is to proselytize idleness, lying fallow and sleeping more. This isn’t just because I am lazy (though admittedly I am a bit!) This is to encourage people to access the portal into their deepest Selves and experience what is there – if not to understand. To take it seriously and if they have time, to even learn from it. I want the people around me to be fully people, not exhausted sleep-deprived zombies.

What better way to begin reconnecting to our nature than to take seriously the expressions of this deepest part of us.

Listen to that deepest impulse

I don’t know how long this will go on for. I don’t know if it will ever be healed or go away, if it will let me live as other people do. I cannot give any guarantees to myself, or to anyone.

No amount of ‘sleep hygiene’ can guarantee a dreamful night. Positive thinking and mindfulness is not going to achieve much more than temporarily helping to cope – at worst it divorces you from your own being. All the new found things, breakthroughs in ‘gut health’, yoga and all that, is not the ticket.

All you can do for sure is listen to that deep impulse, let it manifest in you. It is you, you are not separate from it. Being aware of it will not fulfil it, there is no ‘pure consciousness’ which can perceive back upon itself. When a child cries do you tell them to be ‘aware’ of the reason why they are crying and expect them to be ok with that? I should hope not! You would listen to why they are crying and try to deal with the cause, to soothe their fears if they are unfounded and provide their needs if they are unfulfilled.

Likewise we cannot turn off or turn away from the manifestation of our deep impulses, our deepest pain. For me it manifests as insomnia and discomforting states. They can wipe me out, destroying a routine, disabling me.

But I have stopped using Valium to guarantee me a dreamless night’s rest. If I cannot make it to something the next day, unless it is extremely important, I have to accept I cannot make it. I will listen to the body-wisdom, even in its most debilitating states. This is the only long-term way to move forward.

Actually listening, playing out subconscious movements in the dark, holding the deep wounds and acknowledging them tends to work for me. It lets me rest, it fades into the background. It might never go away, but the more I can deal with it and accept it, the more confident I become that I will never again fall into a total abyss.

Adapting to cope or thrive in this society is not a way to be healthy and true – I have seen how brutalizing it is to those around me. It is an illusion and a sad one. We must fight to transform the world we live in, allow people to live out their pain and be dormant whenever they need to be. Wounded adults will never bring about a peaceful, enlightened society. Ignorant, power-hungry fools know not even themselves – how can they know anything of the world around them.

What would it mean to transcend your own self and be able to function despite the screams of your soul? It would be to live inauthentically, something capitalism demands of us. The destructiveness of our society results from such detachment. It is all around us, and it is all because we are afraid of nature in its truest and nearest manifestation: in ourselves.

When you next lay awake at 3am, unable to sleep, tossing and turning, rather than try to wipe yourself out with pills ask: what is this deepest impulse trying to tell me? Why is my body on strike, what is trying to come to the surface…

 

Frail

Frail is life on this orb

And we all eventually die.

 

The most hard-hearted man

Clutches his pillow like a child

Dreams of a great hand stroking his hair

And a warm blanket around him

The gush of milk through his mouth

Because he is frail, as we are all frail.

 

Any insult to his paper-thin ego

Spears through his armour and reminds

That he is a frail, fleshy thing

Reaching for an immortal light

He can never reach.

 

Did you know that all war and violence

Comes from the failure to accept

How frail we really are?

 

Our DNA, our bones, our species legacy

The mysterious thing that will survive us;

That alone is not frail.

It will fight to the end, boxing with eternity

Defying the impossible to survive

Like weeds clinging to the bricks of a house

Or an insect roaming over a savannah of concrete

Like lice nesting inside an eaten-out corpse

Or a lost chick forced to be courageous,

That spirit alone can survive us.

 

God cannot save us

Science cannot sustain us

Nature will eventually devour us.

Sometimes I see a mocking skull

Appear at moments of misfortune

And laugh at us!

 

But it is all OK.

 

When a campfire burns,

Some embers fly high

Others are dragged down,

But all are swiftly put out.

 

This is just how it is.

What does getting better feel like?

I am getting better. Much better. When the trouble first hit, and the storm first raged inside, I had no idea what it would feel like to recover.

It kinda just, goes away.

Therapy helps a lot. CBT dealt showed me how to deal with panic disorder once and for all, and psychotherapy is like uncovering the jewels of my soul one by one, week by week. But I feel also that time has played a role in healing.

The worst days get further and further behind you. Regular days gradually get easier to manage. Sometimes you fall back into anxiety, but it is never as bad as the first time. It can never be that bad, now I am no longer ignorant.

Whereas I was once all dedicated to intellectual and artistic matters, now I am much more grounded and healthy. I have to go out and breathe free air! I have to see people and perform in public places. My entire self is getting more well. I am learning to open the gates of self-love; the portal into the aether of natural power available to all of us. These are all big firsts.

One thing that helped me a lot was re-reading what my old, frightened self wrote. Another is to listen to the songs that my old, frightened self heard. They are like waystones; I can portal back to the first time they truly touched my soul. When I listen to them now, I realize how much I have gained in strength and understanding.

Getting better is inevitable if you try to treat yourself well, and listen to your deepest needs. Beautiful natural places assist in this healing, although nature is the ‘background’, humans are the ‘foreground’.

I will not get complacent and stretch myself too thin. Nor will I be overly cautious and miss out on life. But I have one shield now I never had before. No matter how bad it gets, I know that eventually it goes away. I have so many more defences than before, and am so much more in touch with the roots of my soul.

Blessed be.

Old Friends

Old friends restoring parts of me

Holding the glowing stones of memory

Who I was, who I could be

Bringing kindling to gently warm me

Cups full of my blood, to pour to my lips

And let my heart pump boldly again

Remembering how I used to be

In those fangled days of innocence

Beneath the clinging ivy of nature

Leaving the lonely path home

To a place the dark cannot reach

Nor trickle through the ring of love

Hovering like a bright sphere around me

Fighters against the grey machine

Brandishing banners of truth and light

Forged of the same ideas as me

Seers of the forces know the great enemy

Words in the book of an anguished life

Turned by eager young hands on cold nights

As multi-coloured lights dance on the ceiling

Remembering the old games we used to play

And knew so well, laughing

At some obscure node of consciousness

Only we share, and so prize the more dearly

Egoless sharing and little care for money

Or the roof and walls called property

Like mice in a nest climbing over each other

Old friends, carry my shield and sword

Squires in a saga, greying my brow

Heeding what little wisdom I speak

Admiring the things I built, and forgot

Mirrors framed in gold, gem-encrusted

Beautiful things of the earth

Who will hold my left hand when I lie

Upon my final place, to smile and then die.

 

 

Bestial

Bestial, something lurks inside. It wants to crawl along the ground, strength in its arms and legs. It wants its flesh to touch the earth, to source whatever power lurks there.

Bestial, it is the thing that is insulted when your toes are trodden on, your status diminished, your territory invaded. It pulses inside, waiting just beneath the surface of consciousness.

Bestial, it once charged at prey or fled predators. Now men are its predators, and the hate-filled abusive words are their javelins, and the pitiful look is the death-blow.

Bestial, it is an infinite well of courage. It is fearless; for fear exists only within one who wants an unnatural, painless time-span, but the bestial is at one with its suffering.

Bestial, it turns male heads to follow her walking. It longs to escape itself in the clutches of another, it is the fiery fuel for the raw deeds of carnal animals.

Bestial, it is far beyond notions of civility, good and evil. It is the vengeful pulse that wants to tear its enemies apart with fang and claw, a dark-furred savage of unmatched might.

Bestial, it is our primal dignity, and our undeniable nature. Human beings are animals, fooled into thinking themselves something more than the world around them; fooled into thinking they are worthy regents of the earth.

The bestial knows that is must work with the earth, not against it. The bestial knows that fellow animals and plants have as much a soul as any man. The bestial already knows the connectedness of all things and the true sanctity of life – to take it only in the direst circumstances.

I am bestial, a proud beast who walks, crawls, thrums, stares up at the moon, howls and sighs.

Healing Herbs

I find it impossible to believe we live in an intrinsically doomed, evil universe. Nor a ‘neutral’ one. This isn’t just some hippy sentimentalism! Look at the evidence!

The scent of lavender and its calming effect. The soothing taste of hemp oil. The calming bliss of lime blossom. The bold tang of mending elderberry. The soft fullness of wheat. The sound of rushing rivers, the song of small birds, the beauty of the moon through a haze of clouds.

All things which heal us, mend us, maintain us. For all of its suffering, the world is still infused with joy in it – and always will be.

We have evolved parallel to these things – they were not made for us. But it just shows evolution will always find a way to sustain an organism within its environment. What is good for us evolves, but it will always be there. This is cause to live, and be optimistic. There is mana out there waiting for us to discover it.

Herbal teas to heal anxiety –

Lime blossom, Cardomon, Cloves

Rooibos, Echinacea

Chamomile

p.s. Avoid caffienated teas, refined sugar and chocolate!

 

 

 

Leap of faith

Running away, from place to place. As if you can outpace your shadow. Throwing yourself onto the back of another’s horse, begging them to save you. Is this the path to inner-healing? Is this going to lift you out of your tumult and darkest pain?

There is no utopia waiting for you, and there is no perfect woman waiting for you to find and marry her. Nothing better awaits until you are strong inside yourself. No one is an island, but you must have a basis of self-love and self-worth in order to do any good for the world.

Have you got it? Look deep inside, is it truly there?

This is not a sudden process, and cannot be rushed. Frustration and impatience will only drag you back to a childish state. Though it may have climaxes and peaks, the process requires the opening of pandora’s box, and I wonder how much control we have over such an action. Perhaps you are lucky if you have a crisis, for now you can unlock the truth.

Yours is finally open, and now you are looking within, into places of deep daring. You are one with your hurt, even as it heals. And the closer you get to truly actualizing what is within yourself, the harder it is going to get. That final leap, to become a knight of faith, is the hardest step of all, harder than first opening the box or even taking up your sword.

Therefore, do not be surprised if your trembling, fearful inner-child gets worse with time, until the final battle with the ultimate shadow.

And when you face it down, know that you cannot defeat it with even the broadest of swords, for that thing is part of yourself, and to harm it is to harm yourself. Know it, and you know part of thyself. Embrace it, forgive it, and you achieve the ultimate courage, whatever others may think of you.

You accept yourself as a flawed, weak, vulnerable being, and in doing so grow tenfold in flexibility and adaptability. You become ready to evolve into something better.

There is no escaping the inner-truth, so do not long for worlds of fantasy. Do not be so absorbed in art that it loses all relevance to the world-as-it-is. Do not run from yourself, however painful the feelings, however harsh and hard the thoughts. Do not hide behind work and routine, this is to make reality mundane. You must face yourself before you can truly live.

Every experience is part of your history, and you cannot repress them. Nor can you stop them from impacting upon your conscious behaviour now, in the present, unless you take them unto yourself and resolve yourself. There are many patterns inside of you which you do not realize, and these shape your character. If you have not the tools and sensitivity to unweave that personal destiny, you are a slave to a thousand motives deeper than your conscious being.

The truth must be dug up, and held up. What you truly are, a wonderful conflux of experiences and attitudes, must be beheld by your conscious mind.

Then you can take the largest step of all, and the hardest. Into true selfhood, as an actualized being of nature. Of course, darknesses and patterns will accumulate again, and there is no final enlightenment. But you will be much more prepared to deal with challenges, in a mature and adult way. You will be more than the sum of your pain and neuroses. You will stand in truth, and all that you do will be of truth.

Fear not yourself. Loathe not yourself. Only know thyself, be thyself and love thyself.