Shit happens

It is Leonard Cohen who moans best “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed” (go and listen) and goes on to enumerate the many ways that shit happens and the universe gives us the rough end of the pineapple. At some point we’ve each felt those words to be the truest thing we’ve ever heard. Sometimes, shit just happens, and there you are – at rock bottom.

Dung barrow - literally a pile of shitThere’s nothing darker, nothing harder. You’re stuck in a situation where the choices are all bad, where there’s no glib ‘out of the box’ solution, where you can’t sweet-talk or wiggle, or ‘leverage’ or visualise abundance or re-frame or negotiate or create a win-win. Here’s the moment where you realise you’re a grown up. This is with you.

Stinks, doesn’t it?

Usually, just to really make sure you’re in a bad place, no one can really help you either. What do you do? How do you cope? Why is life so unfair? Well I’ve got good news and bad news for you.

Bad news

Well the bad news is that there are no simple answers to solve whatever your particular problem, conundrum or situation is. The path ahead of you is going to be rough, uncomfortable and probably life-changing. Ready or not, you’re on it. Also, by the way, no one knows why life is unfair. It just is. That’s another shit thing about being a grown up, there’s no ultimate umpire on the field with you right now who can call a time-out, send off cheating players or award a ‘best and fairest’ to someone who didn’t score but was very nice. Finally, in a personal and physical sense, you’re on your own. You’re in your own head through this with all your demons doing their things. That’s a scary place to be stuck.

Good news

Life is contradictory. Fortuna is both bountiful and capricious.  She can change her mind and ‘whoosh’ the winds blow you in another direction.

Having just finished saying that you’re on your own and no one can help you, the opposite is also true. (This is another weird thing about being a grown up, you have to get used to being able to hold contradictory ideas (truths indeed) in one’s mind, and this is one of them.) Last week we shared ideas for being happier in life and we’re able to do that because so many of us have experienced the same things, just at different times. So if you’re able to accept support, there are people who have also been in a similar dark and hard place and they will share what they have already learnt with you. You’ll have to make your own way out, but at least there will be people cheering for you from the sideline.

Next week we’ll explore some things you can do and some ways to cope with tough situations and rough deals. This is a place for honesty, so let’s admit that we’re about to venture into the realm of grief, sadness and despair. Please be respectful of your own wounds, and those of others. The intention is that by sharing these things we can help to heal ourselves and others who may be lost.

If you are in need of help right now, please ask.  If you’re in Australia, Lifeline offer crisis support and phone counselling. Whatever country you’re in, there’s a charity or service standing ready to help you, please contact them.

Thanks for reading and also for the suggestions last year that we explore this topic.

Be happier

Why do we put off having a good time? Sure, technically, celebrating is normally reserved for a ‘significant event’ but that shouldn’t put the dampeners on enjoying our day-to-day living more.

That’s what we all want, right, to be happier?

shared mealDon’t wait to celebrate. It is a long way between birthdays and promotions through the year, those special events often slip by us anyway. Birthdays are particularly fraught with baggage in our culture where youth is venerated. What can we do to be happier in our lives? Time is ticking people, this is our life we’re talking about!

What stops us being happier?

We worry – but by definition worry is about things that haven’t happened yet. So we’re making ourselves less happy now to think about things that may not happen in the future.

We turn worry into anxiety. While worry is tiring, anxiety is crippling. It isolates us from support and undermines our confidence.

The world is noisy. There is an avalanche of data every day, we’re suffocating under information and opinions.

Lots of people are mean and selfish. Let’s not go into this one too deeply, but I bet you thought of an example immediately didn’t you? Probably from the last day or so. We live in a crowded and pushy world, where a lot of people are out to get what they can.

Never enough money to go around. Do you get to the end of your pay and still have some week left? Do you wonder where the last pay went to?

We don’t have time. So very busy all the time with doing things and buying things and planning things and worrying. Oh my. So much to do! Where does the time go!? Another month and still you haven’t gotten around to that important thing you wanted to start? Drive faster, work harder, try harder to squeeze it all in. ARGHHH!

We just don’t think of it. It is a bit of a rut, day to day, doing all the things you have to do. Plodding through work and chores and bills and buying groceries and getting that thing fixed and all the other details. Being happy just kindof slips out of the picture.

Seven things you can do this week to be happier

Live in the now. Take life a bit more ‘as it comes’, or as a wise friend used to say “one meal at a time”. Of course you have big-picture plans and a few things you really want to achieve, but let go of obsessing over the illusion of control. Roll a little as the waves of life come at you.

Count your blessings. Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. It is the best ever antidote for other people being nasty. Why? Because it brings you back into a core space that is ok, a space from which you can worry less about other people being grabby, because you realise you probably already have enough. Want a challenge, send a postcard or a letter to someone and thank them for being in your life or for something particularly that they did.

Buy less stuff. Being happy is an experience, evaluate how you spend your money in terms of what you value.

Turn off the worry switch. Anxiety is a horrible outcome from a quirk of our clever brains. The capacity to think through events that had not yet happened gave early humanoids a survival advantage. These days it keeps the wheels of our minds spinning when we need to be sleeping. Not so helpful. Learn about sleep hygiene and mindfulness practices that suit your variety of worry. If you can’t act on your concern, mentally count numbers. Or do maths. Really.

Be in a bubble. Cut out some (or all media) and detach from the ‘stay informed’ imperative. You need some of that intellectual energy to deal with your own life, to solve problems (see ‘worry’, above) or to create and heal. You won’t miss much. If you feel like a challenge, learn how to meditate and give that a go. You’ll get the secret bonus that meditators know all about (true quiet).

Time travel. Pretend you already lived today and then time travel back to the morning and tell yourself what the one important thing to do is. Just do that. No matter what other random, confusing, urgent and distracting things happen, hold onto the knowledge that future you needs current you to just do the one thing. You’ll change the nature of your time. Trust me, I’m a Doctor.

Share a meal. No need for a special occasion or fancy food. Just enjoy an ordinary meal in company. Chat about your hopes. Listen. Relax and enjoy the taste of the food, feel grateful for the earth that grew it and the people who worked to bring it to your plate. Tell jokes, daggy ones you remember from when you were a kid.

There you go.

None of this is too complex to grasp and you don’t need to hire a professional to do the paperwork to get started. Don’t like this list? No problem, here are 10 scientifically proven paths to be happier and Dr G will point you to any number of similar lists.

The real trick? Just make one of them happen. Now’s your moment, act on a whim so you don’t over-think it.

This week, don’t wait to celebrate. Make the call and put an idea into action. You’ll be happier for it.

Taking a bath

How did you go with your time for forgiveness? Did you experience any positives? It can take a while to work through the layers if you haven’t gone through that process before. It can also be confronting to acknowledge how many emotional conflicts and memories we’re carrying around one way or the other. It might seem like too much to ask to stay up to date each day with fresh forgiveness, but there are a lot of good reasons for trying. Among them is the ability to stay calm and graceful under pressure, so today we’ll all practise taking a bath.

woman taking a bathAlthough we don’t always have the time or resources to refresh ourselves with a physical bath, we can mentally take a bath whenever we need one. If you work with humans, that might be every 20 minutes or so. The little mental break it gives us helps to create a useful pause before responding to any situation. In that pause we can review our emotional and intellectual states, check in on our five circles and double-check that we’re not about to perpetuate something we’ve been working at forgiving. Sounds like a lot to cover but with practise you’ll be doing all that during one deep, slow inhalation.

While the quincunx gave us a model to put parts of our world into relationship and so help us deal with different challenges that come up in one realm or another. We’re taking that further now that we’ve begun to add the aspect of time, or rather deal with the fact that time is constantly happening to us, we get a chance make a distinction between things we can influence and things we need to simply let go.

One of the most draining things about contemporary culture is the combination of the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) and the expectation that we’re all ‘always on’ (available via social and digital media at all times for all parts of our life. For many normal, everyday people downtime is a thing of the past. You can’t always burn your smartphone and day after day these pressures create a type of fatigue in us.

The fatigue is built up of layers of events, layers of reaction and super-quick responses that we’d like to think more deeply about but have to keep going as something else has already come in. We scroll through feeds, flicking past short headlines, maybe tapping ‘like’, often thinking how nice it would be to share more than a meme with each other. Then there are the layers of repetition that come from dealing with stupid rules, idiotic expectations, basic inequalities that are structural and so considered ‘nobody’s fault’. Each of those things is a toxin in our system and they slowly poison us into a constant knee-jerk position. Without detoxing, unwinding, we’re on the edge. You’ve got a hair trigger on the constant loop of reaction.

Run a bath

If you’re a bath person, you know you need at least an hour or so to put aside for this ritual. Let me step you through it. Firstly you check the tub, give it a bit of a wipe and just make sure it is ready to host you. Then you start to run the water, deliberating over adding salts and unguents or going with fancy soaps. Maybe at this point you light some candles or set the lighting how you like it. Now select some music that suits the mood you want. We’ll go for something calming and happy today. Check your favourite towel and or bathrobe is handy, turn off or unhook the phone, perhaps lock the door and get ready to enter the water.

You slip into the water, which is a perfect temperature for you. Perhaps you like it a little hotter today so it can seep into all of your muscles. You stretch out slowly, feeling comfortable, and feel the water swirl around you to accommodate your legs. You lean back and take a deep breath. You’re really here, it smells wonderful. The water is supporting you, the tub is warm, and the music starts to sound clearer.

Feel your legs, your toes stretch and wiggle, feeling free for the first time in ages. Your calves relax, your knees, and then slowly your thighs heat through and feel soft and heavy. You unclench your buttocks, why were they so clumped up?! Doesn’t matter, they hold so much of our daily stress, so just let them relax now. Continue moving up your body, letting each muscle group warm through and let go. You’re safe and supported. You’re in a beautiful place. Close your eyes and breathe deeply so that your abdomen rises. Your mind relaxes and is free to drift along the waves of the music. You feel wonderful. Your troubles can be dealt with soon enough, right now you’re doing something important for you.

The view from the bath

Now that we’re relaxed and floating, visualise the quincunx, and if you have a big bath, starfish out and float in the balanced place between all your worlds just like in the picture. The view from the bath is that most things that upset us aren’t really important enough to let ourselves get unbalanced by (and that is why we started with forgiveness, because if you feel frustrated with yourself that you do get thrown off balance by irritations, forgive yourself again and let that frustration wash away. Otherwise our own self-criticism continually sabotages us). From the bath, we don’t want to get out, pull on a robe, unlock the door, turn down the music and interrupt our pleasure in order simply to respond to some other person and their issue just for the sake of responding and staying up to date or efficient or whatever your bugbear is that gets you twitching when your phone rings. No. let’s stay put and enjoy right now.

It is easy from the bath to make the decision to wait a while and think about what is actually important enough to respond to, and how best to do so based on your larger goals, your higher purpose, or the values you’ve chosen to live by. From the bath, we can clearly understand the importance of balance in the now and the value of backing off from the hair-trigger.

The metaphor of taking a bath and the visualisation to go along with it is about refreshing ourselves and also making a space inside normal time for considered choice. If you regularly consciously have a bath (bravo!) or if you just relax and run yourself through that visualisation sometimes, thinking of it in this way becomes a tool for dealing with that tiring round of constant expectations and FOMO pressures. From your bath, you get to make a choice, you get to let some things wait, or even just to let them go. You don’t actually have to answer every message or email or have an opinion about every news event or celebrity scandal. Over time you can tap into that deep relaxation in a single deep breath if you want to. You don’t have to have any other excuse for checking out on issues that you aren’t committed to, and you’ll have more energy and focus for the ones that that matter most.

So slow down, run yourself a bath, and make some time for deep relaxation and your values. No need to get back to me on this one.

Image source

 

The Time for Forgiveness is now

The time for forgoveness is nowLet’s take a moment to remember the importance of time in our lives. The present, right now, is the only time we really have any control over. Just in case you’re not sure what to do with the next five minutes or so, I’ll give you a hint: the time for forgiveness is now. If we want change or growth in our lives it starts with the forgiveness of who were or what we did in the past so that we can heal from the wounds we’re carrying. Don’t wait for divine intervention to make the most of now. Begin the process yourself with forgiveness and healing will follow.

Of course learning from the past is important. Remembering things, making amends for bad action, doing things differently, these are all critical aspects of growing up, maturing, being a decent person but staying caught in an emotional rut around past incidents is a trigger for repeating the experience. That doesn’t really help you to learn, it leaves you re-living things. You’re effectively traumatising yourself.

You need your energy

Do you know someone who is a bit of a drama-queen or an energy-vampire? They seem to always create a heightened state of disarray and then drag you into it – you feel drained by it – and the same thing happens time after time. You feel like you’re powerless to unhook from their drama, despite the knowledge that you’re really sick of it. You’re so nice, you probably even feel guilty too. You want to say something but you don’t want to be rude, or you’ve said something but they didn’t take it on board and here you are again going around in a circle, stuck in someone else’s story.

It isn’t always going to help just to remember that you’re enough, or that you want to feel centered and choose how you respond to a situation. There’s no single answer, we muddle on as best we can. You, all of you, the higher you, the you that needs to remember to pick up milk, the you that yearns for a quiet day at home in bed – all the yous – need your energy to come home. You need your energy for yourself. Sometimes you just need some time out. A time to come back to base. When you do, you might find yourself worrying, or judging your performance. “I should have handled that better.” “I wish I’d stood up for what I believe in.” “I’m tired of going along with his lies.” There are so many things where in the moment we do the best we can and move on. We spend our days running to stand still. Well here’s your invitation to draw a line under each day. Forgive yourself. The energy you’d use berating or judging or re-living can go towards resting, or enjoying some music or laughing with your best friend.

Now is the time of your life

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off as a special thing just for New Year’s Eve or some other special occasion. Our lives are made up only of now after now strung together as precious beads on a string. None of us know how long our string will be. We know from our elders that it nearly never seems to have been long enough once you get to the end of it. As you read this, forgive yourself yesterday’s stumble. Thread a fresh now onto your string. Connect with those who forgive you. Make amends if you need to and then shift your commitment into living your now with the center of yourself at the center of your day.

Perhaps you do believe in divine forgiveness, if you do, be generous with yourself and ask for it from your source. Our goal is to find our center, that place where we can find harmony in opposites and balance between the worlds we live in. The present you are in right now is more precious than money can buy. Be generous with it towards yourself and those you love.

Thank you for spending some of your time here with us. Please share this with someone you love. Oh, and have a great day.

Picture image source

Our water bodies

Let’s bridge over from the esoteric hand-wavy stuff we’ve been doing with the quincunx in the mind (here, here and here) to the body. Sorry, not “the” body but to our individual bodies. The ‘meat-suit’ we wander around in where our lives and emotions and accidents and sensations all happen. That mysterious and sometimes troublesome thing that each of us must deal with.

Christ surrounded by symbols of the four elementsSo thankfully today you can’t see the curry stain down the front of my new shirt or the shredded chocolate wrapper that I’ve hidden in the bin (as though by doing that I will be able to deny eating it) because that gives me the space to create the illusion that I don’t have any problems with my body and we can have this wonderfully pure and calm discussion about bodies without any emotional triggers.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAA.

Oh man, I couldn’t even type that and keep a straight face.

<wipes eyes, loosens belt> Ok, where were we? Oh Yeah, pure mind. Hehehehee. Back on track now.

One of the fascinating and miraculous things about our home, the Earth, is that it sustains water in three distinct physical states – solid (ice), liquid and gas (water vapour is clouds and humidity). In case you’re used to taking that for granted, it is very awesome, and something that no other planet in our universe (or any other universe) is so far proven able to do. I don’t want to harp on it, but that makes the Earth VERY SPECIAL. If you like, take a minute to be grateful for that. If we’re going to use the Quincunx as a model for helping solve problems – how can we read it in the context of our real life?

The first step is to see how our bodies can relate to the model. So in the earth circle, visualise your largest organ – your skin – that connects you directly with the sensations of being here on the Earth. For Air, see and feel your amazing lungs (also large – enough to cover a tennis court if all stretched out). For Fire, feel and see your blood, that iron-rich, salty liquid so precious to every cell in your whole body. In the center, well the center is the heart isn’t it? Not just that pump that gives us our rhythm to live to but the other heart too, where we feel things so strongly, the curled ribbons of grey folds that make up our brain and our gut (they’re the same tissues at the beginning and echo each other as we grow. I didn’t even make that up, it is science ) but we’ve missed one. What would be Water in our bodies? Think about it.

It is Water.

No association at all – just a direct step – more than half of our bodies are water.

We think of ourselves as solid, but in a lot of ways we’re very fluid, jelly-like at best. Our skin and skeleton work hard to put boundaries around us and give us physical structure. Water helps us understand our bodies. We think of fire and earth as being almost enemies, but without a specific band of heat, humans can’t survive. Without the minerals and elements of the earth, our bodies can’t form properly. No traces of iodine or zinc? Stunted growth. No iron in your diet? Blood doesn’t work very well. Our bodies, no matter what shape or colour, are utterly miraculous and exist as a dance between so many parts.

A lot of reader questions last year were about dealing with physical difficulties and we’ll start to look at those over the next few weeks. Each discussion will refer to these ways of reading the quincunx. None of us are ‘perfect’ and yet all of us are individually unique and miracles in our own right. Our challenge is to value the divine more and learn how to disregard curry stains down the front of a shirt.

A spiritual tool for personal growth

Don't PanicWe’re on the third part of our exploration of the quincunx (here is part one and part two) as a spiritual tool for personal growth. Of course you will have noticed that there are some drawbacks to this model. For example, the lines can give an unrealistic sense of solidness (which we all know to be a tricksy illusion); we don’t easily see how these circles change size over time in response to the efforts of our will or our habits; and it might look like we’re all individually in little boxes – a perception with particularly negative connotations in our culture besides which we know ourselves to be interconnected. The purpose of the model is to give a framework for reference that can help us to grow. It gives us a new set of choices, not simply an answer.

Don’t panic

It might feel challenging at first, but imagine that you can see your own actions in each of these circles sometimes strong in one and less active in another, see how over time you’ve made a set of spirals and they reach from your past to where you are right now. This can be challenging and uncomfortable because life is often not how we wish it would be. From here you can see the whisper of their trajectory – the next steps you’re likely to take in each of those realms (potentially also an unpleasant vista as we see ourselves perpetuating unwelcome or unhelpful patterns despite our intentions. If you can hold on through this discomfort, it is more than possible for you to visualise these paths, because you’re already living it now, and you are, at least, unconsciously aware of them.

Sometimes to bring that picture to the conscious mind just takes finding the most comfortable image or story that will help you translate this idea into your life. The quincunx itself might have done the trick, or it might have just nudged a door ajar and you need something else to follow on. It is worth the effort because when you have a conscious connection to the patterns of your life you are in a position of choice rather than reaction.

What you’re looking for is a map or a guiding idea that contextualises the dynamic balance of holding the awareness of these five states at once. Possibly there’s one in the faith that you already prefer. Buddhists refer to the four noble truths and the eight-fold path. In Kabbalah this model would connect to the tree of life (which gives a more detailed breakdown of the archetypal actions likely within each of the realms). Christian’s can turn to a Christological reading of the crucifixion (theological significance)  and indeed the symbol of the crucified Christ is a powerful and globally recognised symbol. These examples are given in the spirit of sharing major, existing models not directing us into a theological comparison! There are lots that aren’t religious too. Surfers have their own language for dynamic balance in the moment, and that complete physical and mental commitment often creates a space or an experience in which the higher consciousness’s presence can be felt directly. Some American Shaman teachings refer to the ‘spiral dance’ and to me that idea made sense – hearing the music, feeling the rhythm, interacting with the ground, the sky, the other dancers.

How this is helpful in normal life

When we are stuck in a pattern of behaviour that seems solid, the story or map that we’ve chosen to use can help us to interrupt the habit.

By the way, you might not believe this, but you’ve already made the first step in getting help where you want it. By asking, you’ve found this concept. Just as importantly now is to accept what comes to you as help. (That’s just one of those obvious things that is worth saying out-loud now and then.)

A real example

Let’s say you’re worried about money. Specifically you’re worried that you’re not making enough savings or the right investments right now for when you’re older. I worry about how I will cope with my chronic illness, how I will survive in a hostile economy if I can’t work. In my version of the model, I understand money primarily as Earth (well-being in the physical world) and as Air (a shared concept in our culture). When I’m worrying, and maybe you do this too, I’m often taking a Water perspective (of emotional values) on the situation. That is to say the issue is that I feel weak and vulnerable rather than the rational odds of the likelihood of the situation that I fear or an evaluation of the other mitigating factors that I could use my intelligence to deal with. Notice there is no Fire in this example. Here’s where the model can point out a new perspective. What might the lack of a Fire perspective illustrate? It shows that I feel that I have no grasp of the mechanics of wealth, of how money as a technology functions.

Instead I look around at what I can see others have (Earth again) and measure myself against their possessions or investments. I read articles (Air) about what people in my demographic ‘should’ have or own. Sometimes I witness myself feeling (Water) that I deserve better or more. All of these behaviours perpetuate the habits I’m stuck in.

Even by trying to describe what a fire perspective might be, I had to interrupt my patterned reactions to the issue and go into a perspective that was new and in this case diametrically opposed to the main realm in which the worry holds power. That action of interruption marks a powerful choice. Actions that interrupt our thoughtless reaction mark a point of self-rearrangement. You may also have noticed the use of the word witness in there – that’s another healthy separation that allows us to put what’s going on back into the circle or corner it belongs in and remind ourselves that we’re more than just that reaction.

Even so, there’s one more angle we haven’t used yet to look at this worry. You can see it now can’t you? That’s right – from the centre. What might the soul perspective be on money, debt or poverty?

What does your soul tell you? Did you get a flash of feeling or a picture from your past come to mind?

What perspectives have opened up for you out of this discussion? Please feel welcome to share them in the comments or to think them over in the days ahead. It sounds so simple, but actually doing this can be confronting, can be a challenge, and it can leave you feeling woozy or even a bit lost. Drink some water and be forgiving. Ask for help, we’re all in this together.

Quincunx 102

Quincunx with you in the centreThrough the diagram of the quincunx we introduced the idea that between the realms of the physically manifested world (the world of, say, earth, air, water and fire) there is another space, an important space, and it is the realm of our deeper selves. We’ll explore how by using these diagrams, we can tap into an ancient heritage of enquiry. If you think it sounds a bit simple to suggest that a childlike drawing can be a key to intellectual and spiritual insight, please consider them as “still moments revealing a continuous, timeless, universal action generally hidden from our sensory perception”(Lawlor 1982)*.

Look again at the picture, this time we have a person in the middle with the arms and legs reaching into the four outer circles (almost like the Vitruvian Man  – which is a fascinating subject on proportions if you’re interested) and consider our participation in those physical realms. This sketch symbolises how we participate across these five realms, reserving our core for the center. Our friend, the ego, is very useful in the outer circles but often plays a game of severe interference when we try to retreat into our center. The ego is a beast of the conscious, manifest world; hustling for money, owning land, applying technology and communicating for our promotion and benefit. The ego is hurt when relationships go wrong or when we get cheated in a deal. Our hands and feet put us in the daily round of activity the world requires.

What we require, for our deeper selves, is something else as well. We need to connect to our soul, our inner light, our peaceful sea. However you like to call it, there is a place where you can expand into your full self. In this place your unconscious is also honoured, your value is unquestioned, you’re a part of all creation. Sounds better than a free holiday. You really want that space to be as accommodating and as easy to access as possible! With that in mind, let’s look at the picture again and see if any of the circles can be bigger (because bigger is always better – right?!).

If we allow the four corner circles to be bigger (more stuff!) we might have big houses and cool toys out here, but we’ve certainly squished ourselves into a very small and uncomfortable place for our spiritual aspect to survive. The ego is all for this plan. It *loves* being the center of attention and, as much as possible, being in control. Conversely, it isn’t very practical to let the middle circle swell to the edges of the square either, unless you’re committed to that path. That’s probably the shape that would be close to those special esoteric (or mystical) practitioners who are completely engrossed day to day in their spiritual life. The key then is balance.

You’re probably sick of hearing people tell you that have to balance things “work/life” (is that an unfunny joke or something?) budgets, ph levels (yes, that’s a thing now), diets, relationship chores, and of course balancing our cultural expectations of ‘lifestyle’ with the actual finite limits of the Earth. So you don’t have to balance this. This is not a task. You’re currently operating with proportions that you’ve become accustomed to. That’s your thing. If you ponder this and feel like you’d like to try a different way, stay tuned, we’ll continue to explore these ideas together and share some ideas that worked out ok for other people.

Thanks for reading, by the way, it is wonderful to be sharing this with you.

* Much as I would love to take credit for thinking any of this up, I can’t. I’m merely sharing crumbs from great thinkers who’ve gone before me and who I hope one day to understand. I will add a bibliography of references for this series (and others) but I will rarely quote directly. That one was just too perfect to pass up.

Beginning with the quincunx

quincunx

There’s another way to look at the wheel of life and we’re going to try it on this week. Meet the quincunx. It’s a big-sounding word but a very simple tool.

That sounds like hard work!

There are so many big topics for us to talk about, it was hard to find a beginning. I thought it might be honesty, as that was a theme that came up in the issues people shared at the end of last year. Our relationship with honesty is so important to our wellbeing and it connects into the base of many other issues in the world.

Think of all the times that you’ve wanted to tell the real truth – you know when you be diplomatic instead of telling it how it is. Bosses acting like petulant children, when friends expect you to validate decisions or opinions you disagree with, when you’re volunteered for a task that no one can meet your eye over. Equally there are times when you’ll do any kind of contortion necessary to avoid telling even the vaguest of truths and I’m talking here about things like the real reasons I’m overweight, or not exercising enough, or in debt or lonely or frustrated (feel welcome to insert your demon here). There are other types or shades of honesty too, integrity, trustworthiness, self-respect and so on. There are also the socially acceptable elements of being untruthful that we all have to balance too. Imagine that politicians or advertisements only told the bare truth. Can you imagine a world without white lies? I can’t imagine even an hour at work without them.

But white lies that we use to paper-over the cracks in the social contract are an uncomfortable topic, as is honesty in ourselves. Nonetheless, we must talk about it, we must face it or our other efforts at introspection of self-knowledge are in vain. Why is this, because lies are the servants of our ego. Our ego is possibly the biggest barrier to us finding our centre and so finding lasting peace and perspective. We all have one, but like a pet dog, it isn’t a good idea to let them run the show. So how do we start talking about our world and our concerns without the ego getting in the way all the time? By putting it in place, giving it a job to do.

So that’s too big to start with, so let’s come at it sideways, nice and easy, via some sacred geometry and our friend here the quincunx.

In this picture (if you can’t see it, it is a square with a small circle in each corner and then a big circle in the middle)you see a simple representation of us in the world. For today, we’re just interested in the circles. Take a moment to look at it.

It is probably already familiar to you. Many cultures and religions have a take on this shape. It is used explicitly in temples, churches (here is a well-known Christian example) and architecture but for today we’re just going to look at the simple elements of the shape. It is pretty obvious that the circle in the middle is the biggest part and so probably the most important. You can draw this diagram without the sizing, and then it looks like the number 5 does on playing dice. The four little circles represent the four corners of the physical world or the four elements (etc).

Most of the time our consciousness is caught up wholly in these realms. These four anchor points (named according to the paradigm you’re currently thinking in) are what frame the space in which we really exist. The place from whence we look out and engage with the manifested world, that space in the middle is where our own divine manifests. This represents our spirit centre, our soul or the ‘fifth element’.

What’s important here in all this symbolism is the idea of the separation of your higher self (however you label that) from the physical world. Yes it exists and yes it is found in more than just the physical world. It might not seem like it at first pass, but this is a source of infinite freedom. There’s a lot more than unfolds from this idea, I hope you get a lot out of exploring it.

Release the year

Here we are in the time of year that for our culture is filled with the rituals and habits. You may be considering some resolutions to help guide your way through the routine months ahead, and you may be reflecting on the year that has passed. The push to reflect, the urge to re-invigorate are powerful, and rather than fight it or deconstruct it, go with it. Use this energy and focus to your advantage.

Wheel of FortuneAre you judging yourself on this past year’s performance. Let that go. Are you writing lists and setting goals and ‘pushing the envelope’ of what is available to you? Do you maybe have a (or more than one) spreadsheets on the go to track and align and leverage and synergise?

I empathise. I really do. It is all too easy to get swept up into the brighter, better, stronger, fitter, slimmer, smarter future the new year is promising. This confusing push is impossible to ignore as it permeates our popular culture and spins around us until we’re dizzy.

Should I be putting my attention on earning more? Should I be able to find time for yoga, as well as seeing my friends?  The finite 52 weeks of the calendar year spread out in front of us and we can’t help but hold expectations of what they might bring. What treasures we’ll unearth in them, how we will master the flow of the year and return to this position in 364 days triumphant! Sound the clarions!

It doesn’t work that way, does it?

Let us be honest here, we are among friends. Life brings things we do not expect. It rolls along and we gasp and grasp as we can at what passes by or comes within reach. We steer our way, not from the front, but from facing backwards and watching all in a small and distorted mirror. Rejoice in this knowledge and free yourself from the pressure of perfection.

Rituals, when they lose their relevance, become routine. Routine breeds habit. Habit is the solace of the domesticated. Your soul remains wild. Let your soul dance with the wheel of fortune this year. As the tempo and rhythm change, so can your steps and your attention. Howl a little at the moon when she calls to you, for in your soul is a part of the universe that is untamed, that remains wild, that sings of passion and freedom. This year we will find that part of ourselves, and love it, and let it light our way no matter where our path takes us.

So as you navigate the resolutions and the parties and the remorse and the routine, look for the hub around which your own wheel turns. Your center, your simple truth. What is important to you? Be honest here. This is your fortune, your personal treasure. What few things are essential to your life? Everything else will turn around them.

Next week we’ll talk more about finding your center, honesty and the wheel of life.

(Thank you to everyone who contributed topics and questions for 2015 – what an eclectic and intriguing mix of challenges are in there. We will find a way to talk about all of them.)

Image credit: i Gatti tarot deck

We are all in this together

There is a team of people who help make these essays happen and it is probably the same for you too, that what you make is not done in a vaccum. Hmmm. Team sounds very sportsy doesn’t it? Maybe even with someone blowing a whistle and pointing and someone else keeping score. Imagine instead people choosing to collaborate and play together sometimes with one purpose and sometimes with another. Perhaps like a Sunday afternoon gathering of friends – you come if you can and contribute how you’re able. There’s always food and conversation that is delicious, filling, and unique.

That’s a nice image – all sitting around sharing good times, making art and memories. Those moments we can treasure. Days like today it is worth remembering how many more people there are in your world who contribute to everything you have and do. Most of them you’ll never have a chance to meet or know or thank in person but in our globalised and specialised world they are legion.

Who are these mystery fans and assistants? They are the people who grow your food, who can it, bake it, transport it, sell it. They are the people designing and making your clothes, your phones and computers, your books and movies. They are the people who sweep the streets, collect the garbage, unblock drains and watch over us through the dark hours. They do their jobs and allow us a place to do ours. Of course we expect that all those people paid to perform their jobs, and mostly they did, but should that stop us from being grateful that they did it with care or at the cost of being with their loved ones? Just because we use an economic system where money is the means of exchange it doesn’t make the people inside that economy invisible or unimportant. Or rather it doesn’t as long as we each remember them and honour them for their contributions to our lives, comfort and convienience.

The world is full of strangers who are on your team – in unexpected ways.

Thank you for reading and being on the team.
There are plenty more conversations and meals for us to share. Everyone is welcome because we’re all in this together.

With thanks to my Editor, Riley.
Riley drafting a new post