"God is mythology that we tell ourselves to make sense of the world and reinforce our self-importance."
I'm binge-watching The Handmaid's Tale at the moment and I'm so blown away by the human mind to conceive of potential alternative realities for us all. Margaret Atwood wrote it in 1985 and I cannot believe I didn't have the opportunity to read it until last year. With the current political and social systems eroding our human rights and dignities, Dystopian stories help us to imagine possible scenarios of our society and our place in it. Gilead is one of many dystopian futures which could potentially be real futures for all of us - with the assistance of the human ego.
We humans are capable of great passion, love, creativity and innovation and yet, we are also capable of great evil, control and hate. They are two sides to the same coin and the series of events that we are seeing now in Australia with the religious and political interference in the media could easily swing either way and force us down the dark roads of fascism and dictatorship or to a society where all life is valued. The American erosion of women's reproductive rights sets a dangerous precedent for the return to the suppression of women, who are only now starting to make great strides in equality.
But what is behind all of this? Is it about money? Control? Or is it something bigger? After the great yoga debacle of 2016 where my whole belief system came crumbling down, I have been in this state of, well, hollowness. It's a hollowness of faith and belief that feels empty without having something to fill the void. Religion fills that void for about 95% of human beings, and helps us to make sense of the world and our place in it. But ultimately, God is mythology that we tell ourselves to make sense of the world and reinforce our self-importance as the superior species.
Humans are just one of an approximate 8.7 BILLION known life forms on this planet. That means, for every single one of us, there is another species, plus more. How did we get to the point where WE think we are more important or valued than any of the other species here? If we look back into history, the Great Chain of Being was a massive IDEA to explain our existence which has influenced humans the past 2500 years - particularly in Western cultures. But it was an idea, first suggested by Plato. It was one man's idea about how to explain our place in the world.
We are still living with the consequences of that thought through racism, sexism, class systems and species extinction. The idea that an educated, wealthy MAN is superior to women, non-European humans, slaves, animals, plants, minerals and the Earth itself, is insanity. It's also an OLD idea that continues to affect the day-to-day lives of women, people of colour, animals and our ecosystem. That doesn't make it right. But the other thing that the chain of being does, is place "God" at the very top of the chain. A God, which, when you strip back the layers of ego, just doesn't exist. Of course, God serves a role, in helping people to have faith, hope, a sense of purpose and a feeling that we are somehow important - there's nothing wrong with that, it's good to feel purpose - unless it elevates us above another living being on this planet. That isn't God, it's human ego.
Which brings me back to the imagined realities; what if the way that we are currently living is an imagined reality that doesn't belong to us? What if we are just accepting the reality and regurgitating other people's ideas without actually having a single unique idea of our own? This was my truth when my yoga world came crumbling down. Yogic philosophy is somebody else's idea about the world, it's not mine.
It's far too scary to conceive of a world where there isn't some great creator watching over us, the alternative is horrifying - that we are alone and all we have is this little blue dot and the life on it. It makes sense that we have made up stories to help explain our existence; the stories give us comfort, faith, hope that we aren't alone. I too have been there.
With the impending ecological disaster facing our world, surely we can move past an idea that places all beings in a pyramid-style hierarchy. Surely, we need to be looking more to a world where we work with one another, with the environment and with the natural rhythms of the planet we inhabit and not some imagined reality, with the mythology of stories that we continue to tell that someone thought millennia ago?
©Alyssa Curtayne 2019
"Are we fighting against a darkness that doesn't exist? Is this concept of duality an illusion of our current state of consciousness? ....What if it is learned consciousness?"
I've been contemplating the idea of duality lately and feeling it in both my internal and external worlds. When I look at the world around us, it seems that politics has become polarised into two different camps - the left and the right - and neither can see the other's point of view. In-fact we have lost the ability to have rational discussions on social media about the issues that affect us all. All mature dialogue has disintegrated into name-calling and physical fighting (even in our leaders) - where has our intellectual and sophisticated society gone?
The world feels polarised and our behaviours are becoming more and more irrational. There's a saying that talks about the left and right hand that don't know what each other is doing, but what's more important is acknowledging that we are more than just hands; we are whole and complete sentient beings capable of both great evil and enormous love and compassion with these hands. Both of those extremes exist within all of us at any given time.
But so do I, I feel polarised within myself. And if I'm feeling it, I imagine that many other people are feeling the same.
The idea of duality is a fairly recent one in human history. The first known written story/poem/epic ever written was the story of Gilgamesh from about 3000BCE. It was the very first written narrative to record combat between good and evil. From there our ideas in stories evolved to always include this dualism - light/dark, Isis/Osiris, God/The Devil. By the 5th Century CE the theology of the Devil was firmly established in our psyche. In more recent times, I too have been caught up in the Shiva/Shakti, masculine/feminine dualities of our beings.
The word duality comes from late-middle English meaning having a twofold character also shows contrast. But what existed prior to this? If this was the first concept of evil what existed before?
Are we fighting against a darkness that doesn't exist? Is this concept of duality an illusion of our current state of consciousness? What if we are in this internal battle with ourselves and others that simply is an illusion? What if duality doesn't exist as a part of the human condition? What if it is learned consciousness?
I feel this frustration that arises within me and I feel torn by this polarising force that just doesn't feel right for me. Maybe I'm living in this utopian world where I only want to see peace in and around me. But I do sense this duality within ourselves and the world coming to an end - we are coming to a point of conflict where the duality will cease to exist in its current form. Donald Trump, for all his flaws, has unconsciously highlighted this incredible duality that exists both within us and in our world and that's probably his purpose for being.
And yet, the solution is simple: to surrender the duality and bring the polarisation of each hand and into the place of the heart, the centre of all beings. The place that is love. It begins with us centering into love.
© Alyssa Curtayne 2018
"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
" I never predicted how the influence of violence in society would affect them and smother their critical thinking about violence."
When you raise your children you have hopes and dreams for them; that they will be kind, successful and happy. But what I never counted on was the influence of violence in our society on the way my three young women interact with each other and the world. There are times in our household where it feels like World War III has broken out. Vitriol surges out of them.
In 2005 I wrote a winning letter to The Weekend Australian in response to an article entitled “The Triumph of the Airhead”; at the time my biggest concern was making sure that my three little girls grew up to know they were more than their beautiful faces and bodies. I wanted them to think critically and challenge the societal norms about beauty. I think I have been successful in that, but I never predicted how the influence of violence in society would affect them and smother their critical thinking about violence.
I’m not talking about physical violence (statistics show violence is decreasing form of assault.), but the violence with which humans now speak to each other, not only on social media, but in the community. Road rage has escalated; Australia now ranks ninth for road rage worldwide. The winning song by Kendrick Lamar of the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2016 included lyric references to women as “bitches” and tomurder: “If I kill a nigga, it won’t be the alcohol, ayy” and people lap it up without any question.
Finally, the disdainful way that humans talk about each other in politics, media and entertainment, including social media has hit new lows, with the norm being the vilification of people on mediums such as Facebook and Twitter for their opinions and appearance.
American author Arthur Brooks suggests we are speaking to each other with contempt. I would go further: we have lost our regard for our fellow humans and society is teaching our children that violence through words is acceptable. We are told the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is untrue. But words do hurt. Contempt hurts. Disdain hurts. And it’s time we talked about it.
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4906.0~2016~Media%20Release~ABS%20survey%20shows%20decline%20in%20rates%20of%20violence%20(Media%20Release)~3 accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-news/australia-ranks-9th-global-road-rage-league/ accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://genius.com/11593217 accessed 18 Feb. 18
 https://www.facebook.com/harvardkennedyschool/videos/10154251688431403/ accessed 18 Feb. 18