Archive for the ‘earth wisdom’ Tag

Fighting Daily Black Magic   6 comments

With a dramatic title like that, this post really has to deliver! But all I mean by it are the usually small ways we destroy, unmake, sabotage, undermine and discourage … ourselves.

Successful psychic attacks by others are remarkably rare. Those we work against ourselves are all too common. I can’t. I shouldn’t. I don’t. I won’t. And of course, let’s not discount the low-level psychic garbage of much contemporary media, with its insistence that it knows better than we do what the truth is about the world, its prospects, our futures in it, the roots of our safety and happiness, and so on. You can almost feel “know, dare, will, be silent” seeping out of you and spinning down the drain. “If it bleeds, it leads” may sell advertising space and draw viewers and readers, but it’s less than optimal energy to nourish ourselves with, to try to live on.

wintheholidays

One of Best Buy’s holiday logos

The solution isn’t merely to surround ourselves with a silver shield, though that’s often a good starting visualization. Whatever comes at you that you don’t want or need reflects off and away. Such a technique works well in traffic, in public places with a stew of emotions, like airports, bus stations — and any Black Friday shopping you’re daredevil enough to attempt. You can read the mindset already in place with advertising from sources like Best Buy and AARP that proclaim “Win the Holidays.” Can we make this season any more stressful?! Yes, but we don’t have to. This too is a choice we make.

And the desire I’ve witnessed in myself and many others from time to time, to retreat, withdraw, barricade the gates, is all too hobbit-like in its naivete.  “The wide world is all about you,” Gandalf reminds Frodo. “You can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.” The Survivalist mentality is understandable, but wrong-headed. What to do?

laundry

elemental laundry magic — water, earth, air, fire

Sometimes the best magic there is to practice a simple shift of attention. Instead of someone else controlling what I will think and image and focus on, I can choose, if I wish. We all surrender this power of choice much too often, and daily. Does any advertizer, for instance, really have my best interests at heart?! But love purifies the market of the heart.

One of the most soothing of day-to-day tasks for me is laundry, especially when I can hang it outdoors and it comes in later, dry and sun-spiced — for free.

Laundry?, you say, more than a little outraged, perhaps. Consider the sly admonition of the Tao Te Ching, chap. 8:

The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao. In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In business, be competent. In action, watch the timing. No fight: No blame.

We reject what can be most helpful, because it is simple. It doesn’t appeal to our vanity, to our sense that our problems must be large and important, because we are, so we may dismiss it.

Some of these recent sunny November days have seen our backyard with laundry magic at work, bowing in a cool breeze. But even the drying racks near the woodstove work their own charm. Elemental powers, I have summoned you, and you have served me well. I thank you for your gifts of earth, water, air and fire. Both the laundry basket and my heart come away lighter, cleaner. Hail, and farewell.

taozengardenSuch daily magic has more power than we suspect. I smile even as I write about this, and you may too, scoffing at my innocence or simple-mindedness. But in fact simplicity can be another most potent magic. The clear, simple task, with its attainable objective, is one key to using energy well. Breaking down more complex challenges into simpler tasks is good practice, as any successful efficiency expert, organizational consultant, psychologist, trainer, businessperson, housekeeper — and magician — knows.

When we reclaim such small spaces for ourselves, we witness small successes. Of such small successes and satisfactions is a good day built, and then a week, a month, a life. I don’t need to “win” any holiday. The spaces for love and celebration are always open for us, gifts we can then give to ourselves and each other, possibilities to reclaim in the small but cumulative and thereby powerful ways that magic usually works. To end on a final Tolkienian note and paraphrase Gildor Inglorion’s words to Frodo, “Joy (like courage) is found in unlikely places.”

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IMAGES: Best Buy “Win the Holiday“; stones in garden.

North Work   Leave a comment

flatmoss

In the Pagan calendar the north quarter is the direction of winter and earth. We’re already both in it and going deeper. Darkness falls before it’s even 5:00 pm. I imagine my ancestors in their hut, rushlights burning. Firelight flickers on the walls, and a cauldron — a practical one, nothing magic except the daily magical tranformation of cooking — a cauldron hangs over the flames, full of stew, roots and grains and berries, and whatever meat the hunters may bring in. Despite its hardships, winter can taste umami, rich and dark and all earth-savory. Like no other season, it can return us to awareness of our mortal, imperfect, stubborn bodies.

Though we haven’t yet hit the Solstice and the official start of Winter, you feel it in the temperatures as you shiver each time the door opens. You see it in the look of the mostly barren trees — and see it denied by the green mosses which apparently have no problem with these nightly hard frosts and bright chill days.

We’re here partly to witness everything. And our doings and our not-doings are also part of what we witness.

Witness. Martyr, in Greek, revealing one problem of witnessing dangerous things.

There are many safer witnessings, of course. I like Japanese Buddhist kinhin, “walking meditation,” with the literal meaning, from the Chinese it comes from (I discover, courtesy of my magical familiar, Wikipedia), of “going through like the thread in a loom.” A back-and-forth that produces a fabric, a weaving of disparate threads into a whole.

kinhin

My weaver wife’s out of state visiting relatives, and I make a note to share this small discovery with her when she gets back at the end of the week. Practitioners of Zen do kinhin in alternation with periods of sitting meditation, which is what za-zen or Zen means. I encountered kinhin in Japan, and tried it a few times, the slow version, a deliberate, meditative pace. For the typical American, it can of course drive you absolutely mad — and revealing that irritation is very much part of the point.

“It’s all meditation,” I can imagine them saying, though much of the discipline is paying attention, which generally means not talking. A wonderful, terrible commentary on our whole political scene.

There’s another version of kinhin that offers a brisk almost-jog, and that’s the version I prefer, this time of year at least, to get the blood flowing and keep this middle-aged body busy enough that the mind quiets and the world joins me as a companion, rather than standing off at a distance as a mere object for thinking.

So what’s the goal of such mindfulness? Attention, the shutting down of the chatter that too often fills our heads, that gets overfed by the social media we know we’re addicted to. A balance or equilibrium with everything that feels astonishingly wonderful when we slip into it, because we mostly stand outside of it the rest of the time. Yes, to continue an image that meditators sometimes use, prolonged practice endows your awareness with a kind of fragrance you start to carry around with you the rest of the time. You can be more mindful in everything you do.

2moss-stonesAnd for me there’s a key. Mindfulness by itself is another tool,  not an Answer. It can help me act more effectively. Otherwise, the water flows, the sun rises and sets all by itself, good things, surely — and moss covers me, also as surely as it does a stone set in the right balance of light and moisture. Compared with the stone, moss darts across the surfaces of things, greening them and slowly grinding them into dirt. Dirt — the end result of billions of years of animal life. We all come from the Mother, and to Her we all return. Sing it, brothers and sisters!

Except that’s not the whole story. Our human capacity for doing, so fraught with bad decisions, holds immense power for whatever we choose. Mindfulness can too easily become just another addiction, a way of blissed-out watching while the majority of humans slowly murder each other and erase themselves from the planet. The earth doesn’t need saving, but we do, and the plain evidence of millennia is that nobody else is gonna do it for us.

Renunciation of my power leaves the rest with power over me. One ring, old J. R. R. Tolkien, one ring does rightfully belong to me. I”ve worn it since birth, I’ll wear it till I die. The chance to become more fully who and what I am. And what is that? That’s the walking meditation I strive to practice, that’s the trick of time and space, to figure it out for ourselves in all the years we have. Not an Answer, not a Final Solution (we know how well that worked), but a tool for living.

In the meantime, the mosses watch and (g)listen.

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IMAGES: mosses — both shots — me, from yesterday afternoon’s walk; kinhin.

Asking What, Asking Who   Leave a comment

mossrock2If I ask what? then I’m alone in a world of things, none of which says anything to me, though I may listen as long as I like. After all, why ask a thing?! Trying too hard, I can almost believe I’m just another thing myself.

But let me ask who? and then the world wakes to wonder.  Atoms like me, earthed like me, kindred, sky-breathed like me this November afternoon. Yes, sparked like me, too, being here, in this place, now.  Oh, let me lose no more songs that greet and open! You carry them, clouds — water too, and day gray on the hills.

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If I ask who, this stone
whirling with its billion atoms
mostly empty space they say (though
touching it you’d never believe)
its presence, its jacket of moss
this stone talks, not loud
if anyone listens.

Talks to itself, hasn’t yet
heard hey! from anyone else
through a skin thick
against weatherdance and stormscrape
I believe a free hand
on its rough cool reaches,
I begin to learn its witness
slow offshear in wind and heat,

flake and shard and century chip.
Stone long alone will not yield soon
but with a palm against a sunside flank
you can feel it heed sun nonetheless
warming at the distant inquiry of light.

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Who? is a song that wakes worlds. I wake you, you wake me, we rouse together singing.

The questions matter, though they’re one half of it. Mouth and ear, at the proportion of one to two, right for wisdom when the oak lets fall its hard fruit. Earth, you know. Who says so? A sapling, in a spring or two.

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Image: moss rock.

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