If you read the last blog, you'll know I'm reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and the most amazing things that I've discovered in the book is the power of the collective story. Our human story is built upon hundreds of thousands of years of trying to make sense of our place in the world, which then affects our behaviour and as a result builds societies. Harari discusses things like money, democracy and religion as "imagined orders" that helped growing numbers of humans to cooperate with each other in the absence of biological evolution. Yet we never question these stories.
"If we just sit at home and aspiring for some self-serving nirvana state but allow the world to fall around us, is that spiritual? No, it's irresponsible."
It's all very well and good for the "Love and Light" brigade to spread love and light, after all the world needs more of it, but where's the line between spirituality and activism? Can the two co-exist or do they have to be separate entities?
By definition spirituality is often the surrender of some "greater force" than us driving our destiny and activism is a "means of achieving political or other goals."
Our world is dying; climate change, animal extinctions, plant disappearance, the death of ecosystems such as Queensland's Great Barrier Reef. The science is in, our ecosystem cannot continue this human-driven march towards its and our extinction. What greater goal could we have than the protection of our planet? But is sitting in meditation in the privacy of our privileged, Western lives going to change anything apart from ourselves?
I see great value in self-work, don't get me wrong, I've even created a line of products designed to help people see how they can be better humans but at some point we need to get off our butts and take action. Agreed, it makes us feel good about ourselves when we devote our time to yoga, meditation or other forms of spirituality - whatever that is for you - but what is the POINT of spirituality if our planet is dying?
The Zen quote: "chop wood, carry water, enlightenment, chop wood, carry water" is so pertinent here. No matter how "spiritual" you think you are, there are human needs that still need to be undertaken. We are still human beings on this planet and our bodies require a healthy ecosystem to survive.
I see the work of Abraham-Hicks often in my newsfeed with trite comments like: "Just remember that you want your influence to always be what you ask for and never be about what you are against because as long as your influence is what you're for then you have the backing of Universal forces." I deeply desire a peaceful, sustainable, loving planet and I can sit in my comfortable home for as long as I want desiring this thing but if I don't take daily actions alongside these thoughts, nothing will change.
Life isn't about the self! It's about the collective. We need to start seeing us as US and not ME.
We are part of an ecosystem and events do not exist in isolation and one of the reasons I moved away from the yoga community was this self-isolation built in ego. We do not exist in isolation on a yoga mat on the floor of a studio as we do not exist in isolation as a human being on this planet. Sean Corne's Off the Mat project is one example of taking yoga spirituality out of the yoga studio, and I'd love to hear about more if there is any you know about.
What is the point of loving compassion if it's not shared with the world? How can we both protect and nurture the Earth and the mechanisms that sustain life; air, water, food, diversity and yet keep our spirituality intact?
The answer is simple: action and service.
There comes a time when we have to take action.
If we just sit at home and aspiring for some self-serving nirvana state but allow the world to fall around us, is that spiritual? No, it's irresponsible. We have to put all of our love and compassion into the wider world. What better way than making a stand to protect our precious water from fracking. Water is life. No amount of chanting or green kale smoothies will prevent this toxic sickness from leeching into our ecosystem.
It's time for us to be the spiritual activists we were born to be.
In love and action,
©Alyssa Curtayne 2018
"What I’m finding that the only thing I know for sure is where I am now. I cannot make any promises for the future or plan too much because ultimately I will die, and the path that I take there will be dependent upon my decisions and reactions in the now."
Richard Dawkins, in his 2006 book, The God Delusion, proposes that all religion, particularly those with a creator of some form, is a kind of collective delusion, “that a belief in God is both irrational and profoundly harmful to society.” This theory is often applied to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but increasingly I’m finding it coming up in the worlds that I inhabit. I have always been, I suppose, a spiritual person in the sense that I appreciate nature with a huge sense of gratitude; I am in awe of this planet from the microcosmic to the macrocosm of all that science has discovered. But I have never been religious in the traditional sense.
When I was about 10, I discovered that I was the only one of my primary school friends who wasn’t Christened, and I was mortified. What was I missing out on? I attended Sunday School briefly and after my parents discussed it with the minister, who astutely advised to wait until I was old enough to make my own decision, I didn’t get Christened. I vividly remember writing a poem about Jesus and was quickly put in my place by a girl who asserted her literary and religious dominance.
I needed to convert to Islam when I was about to be married, as my ex-husband is a Muslim. However, Muslims believe that all people are born Muslim and nobody converts, they revert back to what they always were. Needless to say, I didn’t take this reversion seriously and said all the right things to become Muslim so I could marry. But I didn’t revert from anything because I have never had a label attached to my belief, so in my mind, nothing changed.
Religion has skirted the edges of my life and I have met some wonderful people of all faiths but I wonder if Richard Dawkins was right all along and we are all under a delusion? If I transfer that thought process to my recent growth and development, I am very influenced by Buddhist and Hindu teachings, particularly around my yoga teacher training. Interestingly, I think all religions originated in India and the big five; Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are just a different interpretation on the same thing. Somehow the message gets warped and it turns into its own version of events and wisdom. The culture that is developing in the new age or spiritual community is an interesting one and I’m asking myself now if we too aren’t under a delusion of belief; if the things that we all started out believing are being warped into this ego-version of what it originally was. Our shared stories are turning into something else.
So if all oral and written stories aren’t true and there is no great God or Goddess, what are these stories? Are they just a way to explain our existence? Are they a way for our tiny minds to find some meaning in why we are here? And why are we here? What is the point of life? And why haven’t the beliefs of Indigenous populations become more mainstream? The reason for our existence is truly a question that has no answer and not one of us will ever find the answer. So many people turn to religion because it is familiar, it is comfortable, it creates community and there is historical evidence of sorts that the people in the stories were real or that they provide lessons in the best way to be human.
I’m finding that I’m questioning all of my beliefs at the moment and I think that is a healthy way to be, I get to be conscious about what I believe in. I love the human story, our collective history, and while growing up in Australia has been a fairly Western, Christian version of events, I’m constantly asking more questions about the human story in other parts of the world. We are all influenced by so many things and in this age of the internet, while we have limited censorship (at this stage), ideas can spread and, in technological terms, go viral. That, to me, is so exciting. We can start to hear the voices of other humans and not just from Western, English-speaking countries.
And the future? How can I be sure of the future and do I really want to know what will happen? If I spend too long worrying or thinking about the future, I miss the dragonfly that lands on my chair or my children asking for my attention, or being thoughtful as I vacuum the floor and being grateful for electricity and a home to live in.
What I’m finding that the only thing I know for sure is where I am now. I cannot make any promises for the future or plan too much because ultimately I will die, and the path that I take there will be dependent upon my decisions and reactions in the now. There is no delusion in the present. The messages that go to our brains from our senses; what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste and intuit that is true, it’s how we interpret and react to them that then defines us and our human experience.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2016
In the movie Chocolat, the protagonist Vianne is moved from town to town by the call of the wind...I am her...Some part of me wants permanence and stability but when I get it, I get BORED ...I get restless.
Some people are addicted to drugs, food, alcohol, sex or increasingly social media. The addiction brings about connection and a feeling of being alive when the dullness of life makes us feel numb. Humans want to feel and when we can’t feel we seek out stimulation to make us feel alive again. But I can’t claim any addiction to the above, but I do seek out variety, you could say I have an addiction of sorts to it.
To me I am constantly thinking about where to next? New house? New car? New suburb? New city? New adventure? New friends? New relationship? This need for variety even extends to my daily routines such as a new route in a bushwalk or different route to work…I get bored easily.
New, new, new…
What drives this constant driving for newness, for variety and why do I seek the feeling of being alive in newness. Has the variety been about running away; from my family, men, from being “normal”, of the familiar? Or is it simply how I am?
In 2015, I went to the Ignite Leadership Seminar led by the charismatic Brett Jones. He highlighted things that a person needs but it was divided into the Ego needs and Leader needs:
Certainty – control
Contribution – how may I serve?
He went onto say that each one of us is driven by one of these needs, particularly in the ego list. What do you need? Look through the list yourself. What drives your life? Are you coming from a place of leadership or ego?
I was surprised to find that in the ego section, that it wasn’t connection that I craved, but variety.
In the movie Chocolat, the protagonist Vianne is moved from town to town by the call of the wind until she finally finds a place to put her roots down. I am her; the woman who goes with the wind. Some part of me wants permanence and stability but when I get it, I get BORED and I think about how many other places and people there are to meet. Some people find comfort in routine, but I get restless.
Having teenage daughters have forced me to give them stability because it’s what they need at this time – a stable home, a stable mum, but always within me I’m seeking the next adventure, the next home, the next moment, do I run away from things that are too hard? Or do I seek variety? Or should I just sit in my boredom and observe what is?
According to Brett, it’s my ego, trying to validate itself yet I would argue (or is that my ego arguing?) that I feel like life is so short, that I need to make the most of it and have the full range of the human experience. The human experience can be ecstatic, so incredible and transformational but it also can feel heavy, dull, repetitive and without challenge. I’m not planning to come back for another life here after this is done.
I was speaking to a girlfriend yesterday and she observed that I was again looking to move house (only after a couple of months) and noticed that I’m always seeking outwards and not drawing in. I am not seeking the stillness within or loving and trusting where I am, right now. And she’s right, I need to trust that this is where I am and that everything is perfect. In variety, I get outwards movement, yet nothing within me changes.
Life is not about what we achieve, but how we grow as beings of love. I can’t say that I’m totally cured of my need for variety, but I am aware of it when it comes up now and need to make sure my decision making is not a result of a desire to run, but of a deep desire for growth within me. And maybe, just maybe, my next stage of growth will come as a result of putting down my roots and doing the opposite of what my ego tells me to do.
What drives you? Are you willing to do the deep reflection to find out? For more information about Brett's work and Ignite Leadership seminars click here.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2016