Over my outdated corded landline, my dear friend, Berta read me a poem she translated from German. We are keeping distant as she’s 96 and can suffer from weakness in her lungs. I can’t recall the exact words but it was a series of reminders repeated over and over. They were paradoxes. Never forget our uniqueness AND what we share; our isolation AND our connection.
It made me think of my own thought structures and beliefs, particularly the spiritual or life pictures that I hold to be true. I have some beliefs that I can find both useful AND constraining. Useful if I heed and practice the extraordinary wisdom they offer but constraining if I limit myself to naming everything using their jargon, sticking with the wonderful notions of the founder or leader but not making them mine.
I realise I can’t live any more (maybe none of us can) purely on borrowed beliefs, hand-me-down notions of morality or fixed ideologies. The times call for our capacity to sense into deeper streams of wisdom, and very particular and contextualised actions reached after wise and deep reflection, and with a preparedness to keep shifting. If we identify ourselves with one particular belief, ideology or philosophy, we have to put them into practice AND open ourselves to see whether are needed by the world, as well as already practiced by those who would never claim the beliefs we hold.
I feel the need to strive for ever greater understanding of the wisdom stream that feels like home to me. But then like a practitioner of improvisational theatre, I need to say ‘Yes, and…’ That’s why in my house where we both count ourselves as followers of the dense, diverse and deeply humanising wisdom of Rudolf Steiner for example, we also read and explore sources from contemporary writers and thinkers from sources as diverse as regenerative agriculture, depth psychology, poetry, architecture, as well as Indigenous, mystical and spiritual traditions from East, West and in between.
We take our faltering steps along a route of practice supported by Western esoteric research whilst acknowledging the many streams and tributaries that emerge from one source endlessly diversifying. We can feel our connection through the paradox and diversity of expressions suited to culture, soul-state, time and individuality.
The time for fundamentalism is over. We have seen neoliberal economic ideologies toppling as variants of universal basic income are embraced by even the most individualistic, small-government ideologues. But that is not the only fundamentalism that needs to shift.
I keep reminding myself that it starts of home. Where am I as an individual stuck in an old habit, a thought form past its use-by date in some way? How can I find myself at home in one tradition but also be prepared to see the wisdom in others? Where do I need to shift my outdated beliefs to allow new practices and behaviours to emerge?
I’m too familiar with my habit of criticism and judgment, seeing the world and others as things that need ‘fixing’ and know that I need to take on something more curious and compassionate. This are deep-seated habits, that I have to see and own before they’ll shift.
It has been extraordinary how quickly we have taken on all kinds of practices which were totally unknown to us a month or two ago, We are keeping physically distant, but socially close through technology and other means. We are using hygiene practices that may lessen our susceptibility to lots of other viruses as well. We are learning how to stay at home and practice reflection.
At least in my neighbourhood, we are hitting the footpaths and nature trails in unprecedented numbers. When we are out in the world for exercise in the permitted pairs or households, we bid each other good morning and good evening across a safe distance with eye contact and interest in ways we haven’t always shown before.
Yes, there has been much illness, pain and death and all kinds of unhealthy behaviours as well, but I keep feeling encouraged by the transformation I am witnessing and experiencing. I aim to keep a space open for paradox, mystery, and wonder. For shifting out of old patterns and thought forms, and making space to welcome the new; the continual evolution and transformation which humans have the freedom to embrace. As I work out what this big disruption means for me, for the place where I live, and for the Earth.
PS A big thank you to the GAIA journey for all the strength it has offered at this time. Together with a small group and as part of this global movement of more than 6,000, we’re appreciating the encouragement to be active but only after deep reflection. To look outward but to keep bending the beam back on ourselves.