RADICAL ECOLOGIST

I used to be a yoga teacher. Now i am glad that i am not. I still teach the same things, in the same settings, in almost the same way.

Mainly what is different is the orientation of my teaching. Rather than inviting people to make deep peace with themselves, i am inviting them to make deep peace with the world, in its totality. The journey is similar, the destination different. Through inviting a deep intimacy with their own nature i am now overtly inviting them to a deep intimacy with the whole of nature, the whole of existence.

Of course, making deep peace with yourself does not take place in isolation. Nevertheless many people spend a lifetime practicing yoga and meditating without coming to terms with the world as it is. They may find some peace within it, but only too often just in a part of it.

We need more than that now. Now that our home is collapsing so rapidly.

Nature has always played a crucial role in my annual summer retreats. We have lived those summer months as close as possible to nature. This year was the closest. It was raw, it was ripe. It was about as natural as could be. There wasn’t one closed off indoor space to hide in.

At the same time the ideologies, hidden assumptions, subconscious ambitions, contradictions and wishful thinking of yoga that i have struggled against for so long evaporated. This was no longer yoga that we were doing. It was not simply an inwards journey. It was an opening into the world that begins as an opening into the body.

It was Radical Ecology. It was, is, a deep homecoming. A coming home to consciousness. A coming home to nature. A coming home to the world just as it is. A coming home in the midst of calamity, in the face of catastrophe. A coming home that takes you deeper than collapse, deeper than the world.

To be a Radical Ecologist is to have a vision: a vision of Wholeness. A vision within which there is no ‘other”. A vision within which love triumphs over fear, generosity over greed, giving over taking.

Radical Ecology is not another ideology. It is a way of seeing, a way of being. The way of being follows necessarily on the way of seeing. It can not be pretended to for long.

What needs to be seen is Wholeness: in its wholeness. This is more than recognising the interdependent interconnectedness of organisms and environments. It is living within this world, this universe, as this universe, as this world.

You are the universe made flesh. You are the world made conscious. You are consciousness biologising.

The world is spiralling into chaos, nature is crumbling into breakdown. Human beings have made it so. Not by choice. Not by intention. Not by design. By accident. Even if those remain who seem not to care, who seem to want to cause as much destruction as possible.

Yet this accident, and that unforgivable perversity, has a deep cause. That cause is ignorance. Not so much lack of knowledge, but lack of perspective. We have been ignoring so much. Not only the balance of nature, but the depths of our own nature.

We have been marooned in a sense of separateness that we have institutionalised. The breakdown that we are all participating in rests on the institutionalised perspective of separateness. This country from that. Capitalists from Environmentalists. Human beings from nature. Men  from women. Poor from Rich, This colour from that.

This separateness cannot be resolved from separateness. It can only be resolved from the perspective of wholeness. Even if that resolution is that we meet the collapse of so-called civilisation, and the possible extinction of humanity, with dignity and grace.

The perspective of wholeness is not an intellectual one. It is an experiential one. The journey from the institutionalisation of separateness to the embodiment of wholeness is an experiential one. It begins in the body. From there it extends through relationship with others (human and otherwise) into nature and the world just as it is (changing).

This is the journey of Radical Ecology. It includes the biomechanical nature of the body, the conceptual nature of mind, and the intelligent nature of consciousness. Yet it rests on the body and the sensations through which it signals its presence and its needs. These sensations are not just expressions of human nature. They are expressions of Mother Nature encapsulated through the human genome.

Through the systematic use of movement and stillness the body clarifies to mind the contextualisation of separateness within connectedness . Going deeper connectedness is contextualised within interconnectedness. Deeper still interconnectedness is contextualised within boundarylessness. Boundarylessness is finally contextualised within Wholeness.

These contextualisations take place experientially. In doing so they are conceptually recognised for what they are by mind. The cognitive journey follows, depends and is determined by the somatic journey of deepening intimacy with the body.

They are not contextualisations of exclusion. Separateness exists within and is contained by connectedness. Connectedness exists within and is contained by interconnectedness. Interconnectedness exists within and is contained by boundarylessness. Boundarylessness exists within and is contained by wholeness.

Wholeness is singular. There is no other within it. The other exists only within the perspectual realms of separateness, connectedness and interconnectedness. It dissolves through boundarylessness into the singularity of wholeness.

This is the journey of Radical Ecology, the journey to becoming a Radical Ecologist. See you there, perhaps!

 

 

 

Meaning in the face of deep catastrophe.

When life as you have known it, and as you had hoped it would be, seems to be imminently unsustainable, and likely to descend into chaos, despair and denial are not the only options. They both arise from a limited and limiting perspective. One that compresses human nature into its biological expression. One that overlooks our spiritual nature completely.

By spiritual nature i do not mean anything speculative, no matter how ancient its pedigree, how institutionalised its assumptions.

Human nature is not a speculative phenomenon. It is expressing itself in your existence, in your experience, in your life. Of course it can be analysed and conceptualised in different ways. Those differences will be based on underlying assumptions and beliefs.

My analysis is based on my experience as a somatic educator. It is my experience, easily validated, that human nature has three fundamental expressions or domains.  These are the cognitive, the biological and the spiritual.

Our ability to think is perhaps our most distinctly human ability. This is our cognitive nature. Our ability to act we share with all living creatures, although with different degrees of ‘freedom’. This is our biological nature. Our ability to experience is also shared with some, many or even most living creatures, although not always in the same ways.

It is within our ability to experience, to know that we are tired or hungry, that our spiritual nature lies hidden. Most human beings have sensed it: few have thoroughly examined it.

Most of those have lived long ago. They did not have the scientific, technical and conceptual knowledge that we have. They did not know about nonlocality, quantum entanglement, nuclear physics, chemical bonds, cellular membranes nor the double circulation of the blood. Therefore they did not have the vocabulary to describe it as we could, as we can.

No doubt religions provide powerful social cohesion, and bonding protocols that allow us to feel safe and supported. This does not mean that they only express our biological nature. It is equally likely that they are actually expressions of our spiritual nature. Expressions that have elaborated and embroided on simple, unsubstantiated intuitions. As Spinoza said: “ we all know that something about us is eternal”.

The fact is that there is more to human experience than body and mind. While it is likely that many of the more simple organisms on this planet can act and feel, they can not think in a conceptual symbolic way. Nor is it likely that they distinguish between love, lust, infatuation and friendship, as we do.

Whenever we experience something thought will play its part. Even when you are not directly thinking, thought plays its historical part in allowing you to recognise what is happening.

When you experience your body, mind is interpreting the sensations being generated by your body. You know that you are hungry, tired or thirsty. The intelligence of mind is responding to the intelligence of the body: cognitive intelligence engaging with, responding to, somatic intelligence.

Yet there is more to experience than body and mind. Just as there is more to daydreaming or planning than the intelligence of mind. That more is consciousness. Consciousnes as conscious awareness, or less often consciousness as the conscious mind.

By conscious mind i mean awareness of thoughts and thinking. By conscious awareness i mean awareness of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, vibrations etc. These two can come together, just as they can obscure each other. The conscious mind is an extension of conscious awareness. One in which we know that we are aware, that we are thinking, that we are alive, that we are hungry. One in which our elaborations can become more and more abstract.

A creature without the abstract thinking ability of cognitive intelligence can still be aware. It can feel and respond to hunger, but without telling itself that hunger is what it is feeling. It simply heads for food or eats. Its knowing is sub-cognitive, but it is a knowing. It does not curl up and close its eyes when it is hungry.

When you feel hungry, you usually know it. You know that you are hungry on two levels: cognitive and sub-cognitive. You can eat without thinking about it if food is to hand. Yet when you know it, it is because a third factor is present along with body and mind: consciousness.

Yet there is more to consciousness than conscious awareness and the conscious mind. If there were not you would not awake from deep sleep when the tremors of an earthquake shook the building in which you were sleeping. You may have been unconscious, but awareness of the powerful vibrations and sounds woke you up. This is subconscious awareness.

Subconscious awareness registers stimuli below the threshold of conscious awareness. Yet these stimuli can also be recognised within conscious awareness. If you had been awake when the earthquake struck you would have known that you felt and heard them. This is conscious awareness. Then your cognitive intelligence would have immediately tried to identify the nature or cause of those sounds and vibrations. This is the conscious mind.

Inside your body many things are continuously happening. Some of them you can experience, such as the beating of your heart. Some of them you can not, such as the pressure of the blood in your veins. You can be aware of the rhythm of your breathing. You can not be aware of the nerve impluse flowing from the hypothalamus to the fibres of the diaphragm.

Yet this impulse is not generated at random. The power and spread of that impulse is a direct response to many factors taking place in your body. This includes recent and immediate muscular activity (oxygen demand) and the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio in the blood. This is the activity of somatic intelligence.

This intelligence is keeping you alive. Until you die. It does so almost completely below the threshold of conscious awareness. Some of it can slip over that threshold. Most of it, however, will remain forever in the unconscious.

Yet this unconscious somatic activity is governed by intelligence. An intelligence that evaluates chemical ratios, and much more besides. This evaluation is not a thought or thinking process. It is a somatic process of analysis and evaluation. It is somatic intelligence.

If you were to take the time to become intimate with this intelligence, you would discover something both remarkable and reassuring. You would discover that it is not the only intelligence functioning below the threshold of awareness.

At first you would find a continuously changing flow of obvious sensations. Some would be more subtle, some more intense. Some would have anatomical implications, such as ankle, skin, pressure, bone. Some would have physiological or neurological implications, such as inhalation, flowing, emptying, circulating, pulsing, throbbing. At the same time you might encounter feelings or emotion such as sorrow, anger, loneliness.

The more often you take time to hang out with somatic intelligence as the presence of your body, the more different sensations you will feel. All of these sensations occur in more or less limited and locatable parts of your body. Although some may have a broader spread, they are local sensations. They take place in a particular part or parts of your body, however large or small.

As the inner domains of the emotional, pyhsiological, anatomical become more familiar mind relaxes into them. In doing so it relaxes through them. It begins to encounter sensations and qualities less local, less concrete, less intense.

You will begin to feel, and deeply enjoy experiences of spaciousness, lightness, openness, formlessness, boundarylessness, peacefulness. It will not be easy to attribute emotional, neurological, physiological or anatomical implications to the consistency of these experiences.

This will be because you are directly experiencing consciousness. You will be directly experiencing your spiritual nature. As you explore that experience over time many of your treasured assumptions about life, individuality and meaning will become harder and harder to cling to.

You will be deeply confronted with the presence of wholeness, and all of its implications. One of which is that your existence is not random, arbitrary or meaningless. Quite the reverse. You will feel the core of your own being as a wholeness, a love, an invulnerability. You spiritual core is not only always present when you drop inside deeply enough. It is what you most deeply feel yourself to be. No matter what thoughts you have been given to contradict or doubt that.

You will discover many apparently paradoxical things. One of which is that you are the universe made conscious in your momentary, mobile location. Also that the universe could not exist as it is, which it does, without you being just as and where you are in it.  That you are indispensable to the universe just as it is. That your meaning, value and significance is derived from the simple fact of your existence. That this is true no matter what you experience or do. That the universe actually needs you as much as you need it.

INVULNERABILITY

Sometimes, no doubt, you wake up in the morning feeling vulnerable. Perhaps it is clear why that is. Perhaps not. Perhaps it falls upon you as you slip towards sleep, or somewhere in between. Of course you do. To be human is to be vulnerable: very vulnerable.

You have neither armour, nor built-in weaponry. You are neither very fast nor very strong. Neither fast enough to outrun a lion, nor strong enough to wrestle a wild boar. You are very, very dextrous, but not very agile. 

Your strengths are in your brain. Especially the parts that allow you to represent, imagine and communicate. Our strength lies in each other.

It is with each other, through each other, for each other that our remarkable intelligence evolved. You have had many ancestors: most not human. Your distant human ancestors needed each other in ways that may not be so obvious now. Yet we depend upon each other still. No human being can survive alone for long.

To be human is to have many needs. You need so many different nutrients, as do all animals. You need a regular supply of oxygen and water, as do all living creatures. You need shelter from extremes of heat and cold, like all mammals.  Yet we have other needs that few mammals, less animals and even less living creatures need.

To be human is to be the most needy form that life has ever taken.

You are very, very needy. No matter how powerful you are. No matter how wealthy you are. No matter how famous you are.  No matter how successful you are. You need so many things.

You need to be alone and you need reliable friends. You need silence and solitude. You need to be understood, seen, recognised. You need to be able to express your uniqueness. You need to be touched, and you need to touch. You need to be loved and you need to love.

All these needs make you vulnerable. You know that. You feel that. You are always looking for more reassurance: another friendship, another kiss, another credential, another achievement.

No matter how many friends you have, how much you have learned, done, achieved or created: you want more. You need more. Not because you are neurotic. Not because you are spoiled. Not because you have a narcissistic sense of entitlement.  You continuously need more because you are a human being. It is because you are a bipedal mammal with a massive brain that you are so needy.

You have so many needs: biological needs, sexual needs, social needs. Some of these needs are so pressing that you can go a long time without noticing them being fulfilled. Such as your need for oxygen. Some of these needs are more subtle. Your cells do not die if they are not fulfilled. Such as your need to be understood or to touch. All these needs make you very vulnerable.

Yet you have one more need that may be both more subtle and more pressing than all the others. A need that in not being fulfilled prevents you from being happy. No matter how many friends you have, how much you have learned, done, achieved or created.

This is the need to love. Not romantic love, sexual love, familial love. Although it may encompass any or all of those. This love is simply the need to give yourself. To give your time, attention, energy to others. To other people, other creatures, other beings.

To love freely and fully is your deepest need. It arises not from your biology, but your spirituality.

Here lies the beautiful paradox of human nature. Your biological needs are expressions, embodiments of your vulnerability. Your spiritual neediness is an expression of your invulnerability.

Can you remember going to sleep with no responsibility, no obligation left undone? Perhaps in your childhood. Perhaps last week. Can you remember going to sleep like that knowing that in the morning you had no responsibility, no obligation awaiting you?

I hope you can. It may have been a long time ago, before you became an engineer, mother, lawyer, father, chef, teacher, banker, nurse. It may have been when the uniforms you wore were only for play.

You know that your social identity comes with a uniform. Does a rapper dress like an investment banker? Does a cavalier entrepreneur dress like a tramp? When you go to work, even if only online, you put on your uniform.

Yet your uniform is more than clothing and the style and values they display. It goes deeper than that.

When asked what you do, what do you say? Do you say: “i breathe a lot”? Do you say: “i love as much as possible”?  Do you say: “i worry about the future”?

Usually you allow yourself to defined by your social identity. You filter out your emotions, expectation, hopes and dreams. All of which lie beneath your social identity.

Yet you go deeper than your emotions, expectation, hopes and dreams.

Remember those mornings you woke to no responsibility, no obligation? Perhaps it was a summer’s day, light clouds in a sunlit sky, birds were singing outside your open window, warm air billowing across your cheeks. Before you put on the clothes you wear when you have no responsibilities, no obligations, you will have put on your psychological clothes.

The psychological clothes of a son, brother and father are different, very different from those of a daughter, sister, mother. The psychological clothes of a teenager are different from those of a septagenarian. The psychological clothes of a wealthy, white businessman are different from those of an impoverished darker skinned zero-contract worker.

Have you ever been truly naked? Without your psychological clothes as well as your social clothes?

Yes, you have. Not only as an infant. On those blissful summer mornings when you awoke to no responsibility, no obligation you will have had a moment of complete nakedness. A moment of just enjoying the dappling sensations on your skin, the seeping warmth in your bones, the music of birdsong in your ears.

Of course, very quickly you will have put on your clothes, your psychological clothes. You will have remembered the implications of your age, your gender, even the social standing of your family. You will even eventually have picked up and put on your name.

Yet lying there in the reverberate stillness of your summer morning, you had no name. You needed no name. You had no identity. You needed no identity.

Your name, and all that goes with it of your social identity, is for others, not for you. You do not need a name to recognise yourself, to know yourself.

You may have woken up to many blissful summer mornings, without any need for identity, nor name. Yet i am sure you were never mistaken about who was waking up. I am sure you never wondered if it were your brother or your sister in your bed enjoying the birdsong.

You don’t need a name, nor an identity, to know who you are. To know that it is you that is present. To know that it is you who is feeling, smelling, hearing, tasting, enjoying.

Who is this you?  Who is this that needs not clothes, nor identity nor name? Who is this you that has always been present in your life through all of its changes? Who is this you that has always remained unchanging even as all your beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams, expectations, memories, values, friends and knowledge constantly changed?

This that you most deeply are. This that you have always been. This  that you have neither knowledge nor memory of being without. This that has never abandoned nor rejected you is as elusive to understanding as it is consistent to experience.

Yet it is what you most truly are.  It is what i most deeply am.

To you i may be white, male blogger, a somatic educator, writer, poet. To you i may be Godfrey.

Yet for me, to me, i am only that: me. I am not Godfrey to myself. Only to others. To myself i am what is looking when i see. What has always been looking through these eyes, whether bright from mountain air, or blurry from whiskey. To myself i am what is listening through these ears whatever they may be hearing.

To me, i am not what i see, hear, feel, experience, know, believe, remember. These are only passers by. Though you may identify me by them.

I know that my DNA put limits on my height, set the colour of my eyes and skin, the span of my reach. I know that it specified the particularities underlying my social identity: the limits and potentials that my experience fleshed out. I know that Godfrey one day will die. My DNA will dissolve back into the matrix.

I know that my biology is vulnerable. I know that it has its limits, its weaknesses, its endless needs. I feel its limits, its limitations, its neediness every day.

I can lie in the grass by the river, no obligation calling me, with niether identity nor name to burden me. Then what i am, what i know myself to be, what i have always known myself to be is without clothing of any kind. I am not Caucasian. I am not male. I am not even human.

I am simply consciousness.

Consciousness becoming aware through my eyes and my ears, my ability to feel. As the sights, sounds and sensations coalsece into my experience of the world i have no need of identity. As the world of continuous change unfolds around and even within my body the changeless is what i most deeply, clearly and constantly am.

This unchanging ‘me’, has experienced every event of my life. It has never changed even as everything around it is continuously changing. I am this changelessness much more deeply and truly than i am any of my possessions, credentials, achievements, memories, hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Knowing this my biological vulnerabilities feel less compelling, less significant. I know that what i most clearly know myself to be has never changed. None of the external changes of my life have changed it. It has always been present. While it experiences and knows change, it does not ever change. Who i am is always irrevocably me in its changelessness.

In this changeless presence is my invulnerability. Nothing about it speaks of endings nor beginnings. In the light of this, for me,  indubitable invulnerability, my vulnerabilities no longer have the power to torment me.

I know that calamity, catastrophe is coming. While i make my preparations i am neither afraid, nor anxious. For i know, with more certainty than i know that the sun is not going around the earth, that although Godfrey was born and must die; I was never born, will never die.

Us, Them and the destruction of Life on Earth

In the late 1970’s my anti-establishment friends and i spent our winters on the magical Scottish Isle of Iona. In 1979 we had a visit from Mike Burns, my Irish teacher in Oriental Philosophy. He got stranded on the island by wild weather. To make the most of his time with us he generously exercised his remarkable story telling skills.

Upon being asked a question about the possibility of nuclear war he replied: “Yes, it is very possible that we will start one.” To which someone heatedly responded: “No, surely it is the Russains who will start one?”

To which Mike then responded: “Yes, we will be the ones to start it.” Again, this was met with heated resistance. Again Mike insisted that it would be us that would start it.

As this almost comic exchange continued i realised that Mike was agreeing, not disagreeing. But that in doing so he was making more than one point. First that it would be human beings, and so us, that would start it. Second that we all of us would be in it together, regardless of geography and nationality. Most important perhaps was the deeper point that human suffering is not only compounded but often even caused by our “us versus them” attitudes.

And here we are facing the only disaster more devastating than a nuclear war: global environmental destruction.

While many people have long been clear that we are already in the grip of this disaster, many are those who are not. More to the point, many and vocal are those who deny it. Nevertheless the facts are clear. Species are being wiped out, bees are in decline. Oceans are warming and rising and glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates. Soil quality is eroding worldwide, while heatwaves, storms, tsumanis and tornadoes are increasing in both regularity and intensity.

It does not really matter what else is behind it. Of course human waste is a massive, if not the major, contributor. It does not matter where you live, where you were born. Anyone who has the technological, social, intellectual and financial affluence to be reading or hearing these words has, is and will continue to contribute to this destruction.

There is no us and them in a global meltdown.

In 2010 i was in Barcelona airport with my twelve year old daughter. We were waiting for her flight home to Ibiza. After which i would board my return to London.

From our shared silence she unexpectedly asked:
Dad, do you think I will get to live as long a life as you have?” 

I had never heard her speak on this topic before.

Although i have felt this dark shadow over me for more than forty years i did not want to invoke despair in my young child. Nevertheless i replied:
Well, there are those who consider themselves to be well informed who would cast doubt on the likelihood of that.”

Finally and quietly she broke our heavy silence:
“Why are they doing it?”

I asked:
Why is who doing what?’.

“Why are the people who are destroying the environment doing it?”.

I told her that nobody is deliberately destroying the environment. Rather that every day every person has to make decisions, the consequences of which may be destructive of the environment.

“But why do they make those choices?”

“We are making those choices” I replied.

She looked at me confused.

We live in different countries. To be able to see each other within the tight calendar of our different lives we fly in aeroplanes. We are not choosing to destroy the environment. We are choosing to honour and express our love for each other. These are the kinds of choices faced by millions every day. The consequences of which are, yes, destroying the environment.”

She looked at me with deep, sad eyes and without words told me that she understood.

Now she is a Rebel aginst Extinction, with first hand knowledge of the inside of a police cell. While her father lay down in front of bulldozers forty years ago. Both of us, nonentheless continue to take actions that contribute to the destruction of the environment.

My point is only this: we need to do away with our tribalisms.

We need to put aside our identity politics: whethere it is based on race, gender, ability, wealth or sexuality. We need to see clearly that this catatstrophe cannot be averted by a few. Not by a few million Rebels, not by a few NGOs or ‘Greening’ Corporations, nor even a few governments.

This is a crisis that must be met by all.

For this to be possible we need to not just think, but also feel differently. We need to feel not just sympathy, but empathy; not just threatened but supported; not a helpless individual, but a part of a powerful force.

That force is life itself.

We need to understand that life is in itself an unbroken whole, a seamless singularity with no us and them. We need not only to see that clearly, we also need to feel it.

We need to see that these geophysical and biological changes have been caused by how we feel. By our individual and collective sense of insecurity, inadequacy. From which we have pooled our intellectual and technological resources to ‘rise above’ the challenges and constraints of nature.

It is the very things we have developed to make our lives easier, safer, longer that are going to bring life itself to breaking point very soon.

We have been doing this, all of us, because we do not feel safe. We do not feel safe in the face of our biological vulnerability. We do not feel safe within our inability to reliably predict nature. We do not feel safe in a world so vast and complex. We do not feel safe in a world in which our community, our tribe, our way of being is a minority.

Our destructiveness is a direct expression of our insecurity. We destroy simply because we do not feel safe, and the actions we take to make ourselves feel safe are creating more real, much greater dangers. Dangers from  which we will soon be completley unable to escape.

That point may not have quite yet come.

We need to  learn to feel safe: safe with our neighbours, safe with our politicians, safe with out technologies. If we do not we will continue to act destructively, however constructive our ideologies and intentions may be.

Where there is a conflict between conscious intent and subconscious belief, the subconscious will always overcome the conscious.

This does not mean we need to vote in a better quality of politician, although that is true. Nor does it mean that we must develop more effective green technologies, although that also is true. It does not even mean that we need to learn the language and customs of our neighbours, although that would surely help.

It means that we all, we each, need to know ourselves better, much better.

We need to look within: deeply within. Deeper than our fears and anxieties. Deeper than our hopes and intentions. Deeper than our personal identity and history. Deeper than our sexuality, gender, race and age.

We need to look deeply enough to see what we all have in common. We need to look deeply enough to see the truth about human nature. We need to see that to be human is to be nature. Nature in a  very specific, very potent and potentially destructive, form.

We need to see deeper than that destructiveness, deeper than our unique human abilities. We need to see into the deep core of human nature.

A core that we share with all of nature.

Not only with dogs and cats, wolves and mice, eagles and whales, spiders and ants.  We need to become familiar with what we have in common also with jellyfish, amoebas, cabbages and carrots.

You can call it life. You can recognise its cellular presence as DNA. But this will not be enough. You need to go deeper than that. You need to find the very source and sustanence of life. Which is at the same time your own source, your own core, your own nature.

You need to become so deeply intimate with your own presence that this spontaneously generates a clear intimacy with your own nature. So that within that intimacy you find the generosity, inclusivity, sensitivity and compassion that expresses ‘natural morality’, your natural ‘humanity’.

This is not a matter of debate and argument. This is a matter of experience.

An experience you need to become deeply familar with if you are to feel safe enough to let go of your destructiveness. An experience without which you will never feel genuine solidarity with people who do not act, look, speak or think like you. An experience without which you will never truly care about other species, all other species, enough to dedicate your life to supporting them.

If you want to care for life, look within, to its roots. Let these roots nourish, inform and guide you. Intellectual analysis is not enough. The “road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Become intimate with your own presence. Feel the sensations that it generates. Follow the subtle, into the delight. Then you might become the love that you most deeply are. The love that life most deeply needs.

Innate Morality

Olivia: I want to ask you is there such a thing as innate morality? Can morality be deeper than an idea, a belief, an education? 

Godfrey: First of all every human being that has ever lived has lived in a particular culture and every culture has its norms, every culture has its rights and wrongs. But probably in most cultures, certainly the culture that we live in, there are people who don’t perform within those norms. People who can be regarded as behaving badly or immorally. This can very easily create the impression that morality is something that we learn, or we don’t.

When I was young there was this sense that its up to parents to install the sense of right or wrong in their children. This idea may have roots in the idea that god gave Moses the ten commandments. Judeo-Christian morality came from God. Of course this is used by and in support of religion. The foolish claim that without religion we would be immoral creatures or ruthlessly selfish creatures and we have to learn not to be.

When a  question is being asked any answer has to come from a culture, from a way of thinking, from a way of seeing things. I think my way of seeing things is a little different. It’s not necessarily in conflict with all other ways but it might be in conflict with some. So I’d like to sketch out my point of view, my perspective. As somebody who has been relentlessly examining my experience as a human being and bringing that inquiry into my  personal and professional relationships.

I am not a scientist. I haven’t done any controlled experiments. Nevertheless my personal and professional exploration of human experience has left me with an understanding of human experience that differs from that of professional thinkers: whether they are philosophers or scientists. I suspect that this is simply because they are thinking about this,  instead of also trying to experience it.

What I  am talking about here is consciousness. The word consciousness in the intellectual establishment of philosophers and scientists, normally refers  to the conscious mind which is at the heart of human experience. However when I use the word consciousness I mean it much more deeply and broadly than that,  but not excluding that.

So to put it simply, to be endowed with consciousness is to be endowed with the ability to discriminate, respond and learn. Which of course all life is. An amoeba responds to its environment, and so not only survives, but also learns. Without unicellular learning we would not be here having this conversation. Within that bigger view of consciousness there are many layers.

The language that we have to speak about consciousness has developed in response to what consciousness reveals, rather than in response to what consciousness is in itself. The language that we have to talk to each other about our experience is based on the things that we experience, rather than being based on what allows us to experience.

When you start looking at how consciousness or awareness participate in human experience you have to start saying things like conscious awareness, unconscious awareness or subconscious awareness. This is because we don’t have enough words. So it can get a little messy and become very easy for people to assume a meaning that is actually not intended.

So anyway my principal professional and personal interest has always been consciousness. This means I have spent a lot of time being intimate with my own presence, in order to clarify what is really going on within human experience. I have always been fascinated by what it is that is expressing itself in human beings as human nature. My main research tool is being intimate with my own presence, and supporting others in that as a yoga, meditation and tantra teacher.

Intimacy with your own presence confronts you most obviously with the presence of the body and the sensations it generates. Less clearly it confronts you with  the presence of mind and the interpretations it is making.  It also, but much more subtly, presents you with that which reveals them: which is consciousness. Of course that is consciousness in the limited sense of conscious awareness. That’s what we are actually experiencing.

However our experience as human beings also contains what you could call subconscious or unconscious awareness. This expresses itself when you are asleep and you wake up in response to a loud noise. Of course it also expresses itself all the time you are awake.

So there is awareness that is conscious, which is normally referred to as consciousness. Yet there is something much bigger that is also consciousness, for which we have no specific word. Most of what it contains never reaches conscious awareness, but it is all potentially available. The conscious mind is continuously filtering it so that we can function.

It is not part of our direct experience that the conscious mind is continuously selecting and filtering what is going on more deeply. So it is easily overlooked, and in that oversight the fundamental nature of consciousness is not recognised. Most people don’t carry the thought that consciousness is intelligent. Most people, even professional thinkers, dont acknowledge that conscious awareness is an intelligent presence. It’s not a dull, passive presence. It reveals, it illuminates, it brings into the light. Its illumination, its revelation are functional properties of consciousness and they generate experience.

When you spend a lot of time just being intimate with your own presence you feel many many things. Many of those things are easily recognisable as having an anatomical nature. You could feel your knee, you could feel your ankle, you could feel muscles. Some of those things can be recognised as having a physiological nature. You can feel things moving, flowing, you can feel your heartbeat, your breathing.

These experiences of the anatomical, of the physiological are based on the intelligence of the mind interpreting the activity of the body: which is an intelligent activity. It is intelligence meeting intelligence. The orthodox scientific and philosophical view is that that is all there is, somatic and cognitive intelligence at work.The religious view is that there is also a soul.

I take the view that whatever is here, it is here for me to find out. I don’t need to rely on anyone’s opinion because it’s here. I don’t have to go anywhere. I just have to pay attention deeply enough to try to make sense of the different things I can feel or hear, smell, taste within me. Of course feeling is the primary sense, of which all the other senses are refined extensions.

The somatic element of human experience is the physical body and the sensations it is generating. The cognitive element of human experience is the mind and the interpretations that it makes. Then there is this third element of human experience: that which makes experience possible in the first place. For me this is the spiritual element, the intelligent presence of consciousness, with its inner qualities of spaciousness, openness, lightness, peacefulness, delight, love.

Any well educated philosopher or scientist can tell you that there is no reason we have to be aware, to have experiences at all. The human organism is a finely tuned action/response mechanism that could perhaps survive without a conscious mind, without experience of its own presence and activity. Although i doubt that myself: we are too vulnerable, we need to communicate and for that we need a conscious mind.

Anyway, we are not zombies.

We are conscious beings and of course this is the mystery that confounds everybody. The usual assumption is that conscious awareness is an after thought that came after a long developmental process. I don’t think so. I think its roots were there from the beginning. I think the whole of the evolutionary process is an expression of consciousness. Not conscious awareness or the conscious mind, but the ability to discriminate, respond and learn. When consciousness is seen in this deeper, broader sense it no longer appears to be an evolutionary side effect.

What consciousness does can be summarised as its functional properties: it illuminates, it reveals, it even generates. However, it not only makes things possible, it also has intrinsic qualities or properties that reveal its presence directly. Qualities such as spaciousness, openness, lightness, peacefulness.  What it can be directly experienced as can be called its structural properties: how it feels, tastes, sounds.

To become intimate with your own presence you only need to be interested. It is not a special skill. When you do, you may notice pain, anger, loneliness, hunger. These kinds of biological or social feelings are common enough, but they don’t last, and they are not always present.

However there are certain things that come over and over again no matter what you feel in a biological or social sense. These are those structural qualities, such as spaciousness, openness, lightness, peacefulness. When you experience certain qualities over and over again it’s very difficult to tell yourself that they are coming from a psychotic episode. It is hard to write them off as  delusional because they are happening all the time, and not only to you.

Intimate awareness of the intelligent presence of consciousness reveals other quite surprising qualities: peace, love and delight or joy. Of course having recognised that consciousness does not actually originate in the sophistication of human neurology this has implications. Love, as the poets often declare, may be a property of life itself, not unique to humans at all. The empathy that animals display, and not only towards their own species, may not be only a social or survival skill. It may be expressing something deeper than evolutionary success.

Anyway, to me, love is a fundamental property of consciousness. Therefor it is a fundamental property of any creature endowed with consciousness. Which according to my definition is all creatures: including amoebas.

What does it mean that almost every stranger you stop to ask the way responds politely and patiently? Is this simply social conditioning? Perhaps not. I would say that this demonstrates that there is a kindness and generosity built in to human beings. Some might argue that people only do that out of social conditioning. But that is an assumption based on a very narrow view of life.

It is clear to me that human beings are by nature exquistely sensitive creatures: that all animals and even insects are. It even seems to be the case that plants are too.  I don’t think that sensitivity is learned, even though it does become specialised. To me that sensitivity which allows living organisms to discriminate, respond, and also to learn, is an expression of consciousness in the deeper, broader sense.

At the same time this ability to discriminate and respond expresses through other functional properties. These include openness, honesty, intimacy and generosity. To me these are all functional properties of consciousness in the deeper, broader sense.

It is mind, not consciousness that has limited and limiting agendas. While we know that mind selects, filters and excludes, consciousness includes. This is an expression of its generosity. It is also honest, its inclusivity allows it to accept everything without needing  to judge and distort.  Its openness also: while mind becomes easily prejudiced against recognising certain things, this is not the case for consciousness. Exclusion and prejudice are properties of mind, not consciousnes. Equally consciousness does not hold itself back from anything. It functions through a direct, unmediated intimacy.

In seeing these intrinsic, functional properties of consciousness, I see an innate morality. The sensitivity of human beings, and other creatures may become focussed and specialised by way of biological and cultural conditioning. Nevertheless, at its root, it is innate. It is the same for honesty, generosity, inclusivity etc.

Being human has three elements. The somatic element is the body and its physical sensations. The cognitive element is the mind, making interpretations imagining, speculating. Then there is this third element, which is not effectively in our vocabulary,  which allows that to be experienced. It allows you to know that you are feeling, to know that you are responding, to know that you are thinking, to know that you are processing, evaluating and reacting to life.

For me it’s very easy to see that that is the fundamental aspect of being human. Not just in terms of my and your development, but also in our collective evolutionary development from amoebas. Amoebas had unconscious consciousness or unconscious awareness. Probably they didn’t know that they were feeling, opening, contracting, reacting and all of those things they were doing, but they were doing them.

So this is how I would define consciousness, which could easily be referred to as natural intelligence. Only I would say that intelligence is a property of consciousness, rather than their being synonyms. So to me it’s really clear that any human being that has not been so traumatised that they totally lost touch with their deeper natural intelligence of consciousness is going to be a moral being. Any healthy, sane person is going to be disturbed by women being raped, by people having sex with children, by people being locked up, tortured or killed because they believe different things than you do.

These things are going to disturb any human being who has not been traumatised. To be deeply conditioned into believing that women are here to be raped, that children are sex objects is to be traumatised. That trauma puts you out of touch with natural intelligence. To believe that those kinds of atrocities are justifiable is an aberration of human intelligence.

It is only because trauma is so common that the significance of natural intelligence, especially the intelligence of consciousness, is overlooked. Then it is assumed that people need to be intimidated into being decent, moral beings. This intimidation is assigned to the divine being and their commandments, heaven and hell.

There is a kind of twisted truth in that. Our sense of right and wrong does come from a more reliable, subtle, even invisible intelligence: the intelligence of consciousness. This is an intelligence that actually has many of the properties attributed to divine beings. It is only because we are out of touch with it that we deify it.

Our natural morality is coming from this intelligence that we are out of touch with. However we can be in touch with it, and even though we are out of touch with it consciously, nevertheless it’s forming everything. Consciousness and its functional properties is forming our experience; so we are not completely out of touch with it. We are only out of touch with it consciously. So that’s more or less how I am seeing it.

Olivia: So what do you think one can do to support being in touch with innate morality? Or being in touch with consciousness? 

Godfrey: Well you just said it really. What can help us to get in touch with our innate morality is to get in touch with consciousness. Which means to have a conscious experience of the presence of consciousness. Then we start to recognise, enjoy and be nourished by its structural properties.

Eventually that recognition of the properties and functioning of consciousness allows the mind to realise there is a deeper intelligence functioning and available. Then the mind doesn’t have to work everything out, it doesn’t have to go to a library to work everything out, it doesn’t have to go to a church to work everything out. There is a source of wisdom as well as morality already present. So the real question is then how do you get in touch with the presence of consciousness.

It turns out that the most simple direct way is by way of physical sensations.

The key is feeling sensations as deeply and intimately as possible. It doesn’t matter what the sensations are. Of course the willingness to feel sensations varies, not only person to person, but also sensation to sensation.  Some are easier to feel, some are more present, some are more stable.

The more intimate you become with physical sensations the more you start to encounter the structural properties of consciousness. Encountering these structural properties of consciousness, especially the love and the peace,  has an effect. Like nutrients, they nourish you. Part of the nourishment is to relax you. To allow you to let go of the continuous struggle to get things right from and with the mind. Which rarely has an enough data. It knows it rarely has an enough data.

One of the properties of consciousness, and one of the indications of its inclusiveness, is that it has all the data.

All the data is available. This is how people can have intuitive experiences, psychic experiences, all of a sudden do something, say something that’s exactly the right thing. This is not coming from any conscious process. All of these types of experiences people can have can be made sense of when we understand the nature of consciousness, the nature of intelligence and how that functions as what we call knowledge. Knowing what to do, knowing what to say.

So the simple answer to your question is to hang out with physical sensations while sober. Because if not sober the implications of those sensations won’t become clear. And the nourishing possibilities of their qualities won’t be available.

Olivia: I’m just going to step back a little bit. Cause it makes me think as we grow up we are giving a certain compass from our parents, from our school system, from our community. And then as we start to grow up more maybe as teenagers, early adulthood we start to recognise ‘Hold on a minute, is that the compass I want to refer to?’ and we go out and find our own compass. And it kind of seems like all of us have to have some kind of compass in which we live our daily activity and our a sense of what’s going to project us this way or that way and more often than not we don’t question that compass. We just take it for granted So, what I am hearing is first of all maybe just take a look at your compass. And then see, is that a healthy place from which to orient your life. And perhaps there is somewhere that could be a lot more wholesome and could engage us in that innate experience of just morality that’s already there. 

G: I think many people do change their compas when they become adults. The problem is  that it is undertaken and established intellectually. So it may lead to an intellectual understanding that you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that, you shouldn’t lie, cheat etc. However it doesn’t necessarily change the way you actually function. It doesn’t necessarily change the deeper, perhaps contradictory assumptions and beliefs, that have been put there by your social conditioning. For that initial intellectual challenge to bear fruit, of putting you in touch with innate morality, there has to be a process of somatic intimacy.

Becoming intimate with physical sensation seems to be an indispensable necessity to permanently transforming behaviour.

This intimacy, this process doesn’t require any help from the mind. The mind participates in it. It learns from it, but it can’t guide it. This is what makes it difficult, because the role that we’ve given the mind, collectively, culturally and individually, is to be the problem solver. Mind is taken to be the director of the game, to make sure that everything works out.  This supposedly quintessentially human gift of the mind and its ability to rationally to think about cause and effect.

That rationality  of mind of course is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t actually help us to get in touch with consciousness, or with our innate morality. It just leaves us going round and round in philosophical circles. Philosophy has been going round and round in those circles a long time: without really changing how people relate to each other. People are still killing, raping, exploiting all of the time. People have put it down to human nature rather than not paying attention to human nature. Not becoming intimate with human nature.

Olivia: Do you think the part of the problem or part of the human suffering is the fact that  innate morality  rubs up us against what our minds are telling us. The mind compass rubbing up against the deeper intelligence. 

G: Yes. It’s here. It’s in us. It can’t be taken away. It can be ignored or not heard. Nevertheless I don’t think it can completely be ignored.  A guilty conscience might sometimes be expressing it. It is not something that needs to be recovered, it is something that needs to be uncovered. The fact that it needs to be uncovered doesn’t mean that it isn’t already actually functioning. Surely it is not functioning freely because it has been interfered with by the unconscious assumption that the mind has to work it all out, or the priest has to tell us, or God has to inform us of what’s right and what’s wrong.

The fact is that we all know what’s right and what’s wrong. Everybody. I’m sure the people in ISIS were cutting heads off partly because they knew its wrongness would make it so shocking. If not then they are sociopaths or psychopaths. That’s perhaps a definition of a psychopath: completely cut off from innate morality, completely cut off from the intelligence of consciousness. Then maybe a sociopath is a bit cut off.

O: And back to what you were saying about how do we get more in touch with this. And you were saying basically just feel the sensations. That’s pretty radical. 

G: Radical is the word. Because it’s going down to the root of human intelligence. You could say it’s very contentious. Its displacing the mind, the rational intelligence and information that we’ve accumulated in a life time from its throne. That’s why it is difficult for people to even consider that it’s possible. Yet even if they are willing to give it a go, it is very easy to be sidetracked by mind constantly chipping in: “Am I doing it right?”, “What should I be doing?”. The point is that you don’t have to do anything. You just have to feel the sensations as deeply possible.

O: And would you say in your experience the more you do that the more certain kind of experience of living comes out? 

G: Well it seems to be that way. I have a slightly sceptical mind and I like to apply that to my own thinking and experience. I wouldn’t like to be definitive, but it really does seem to me that hanging out with physical sensations really intimately does affect how you experience life. This is not only from my own experience, but also observing other people who have done likewise, including yourself.

It is not that there are clear markers about how this deeper intelligence of consciousness expresses itself into life. One way for sure is a reduction in anxiety about decision making and their consequences. They still need to be made, but they more or less make themselves. Then more generally there is a sense of freedom, acceptance and tolerance that comes with not being so beholden to what you think about anything. You can give up your ideas quickly, easily. When you get a bit of new data or coherence.

I think there is an element of trust that comes into it. You start to trust that there is an intelligence within you that is very sensitive, very competent, very capable. That you don’t have to rely only on your ability to think and to have all of the right data in order to meet the challenges of life. So this is very relaxing. Of course as you become more relaxed you become more open, tolerant.

It is kind of a win win situation.

You actually don’t have to do anything: just feel. You don’t have to have a strategy, you don’t have to have a formula, you don’t have to keep track of what’s going on. It’s going to be happening and it doesn’t matter if the sensations are sunlight on your skin,  breath in your throat, pulsations in your pelvic floor, throbbing in your armpits: it doesn’t matter. They are all coming from the same source and they are all being revealed by the same source: consciousness.

O: I think I need to also add an experience for me I recognised happening is that first of all a recognition of how I have been oriented very subtly by ideas about this is right and that’s wrong. And in deepening into the experience of  sensations that right and wrongness as a clear concept has slipped away. Instead there is just a deep inner conviction in the moment of what is right and wrong.

G: I think that I can see how that’s possible. When you become intimate with your own body, you eventually become intimate with the presence of consciousness. You experience its functioning through those functional properties: sensitivity, honesty, openness, intimacy and inclusivity. By immersing yourself in the presence of consciousness you are immersing yourself in those properties. Then those properties start to express themselves into your life more.

For example yesterday when you were feeding Ayla and there was stuff on the floor and you had to go and you said to me ‘Don’t worry I’ll clean up that later.’ I just cleaned it up. It was there, so why not? Why wait for you? Rather than thinking it’s not my business, it’s not my child, it’s not my food, it’s not my space. Which is the kind of way I would definitely have reacted when I was younger. Not with a conscious thinking but automatically avoiding what i saw as work. So I think those kinds of things change in ways that it’s very easy not to notice because it’s incremental.

O: But I particularly notice that in the way that my mind works in response to hearing other people talk or hearing their perceptions on life and my mind would go ‘Hmm yes they are either right or they are either wrong.’ Getting like that very nitty gritty. There’s been that releasing of that, seeing that it’s just a perception. 

G:  I think it brings you more directly into immediate contact with what’s actually happening. After all physical sensation is the base of your experience. On top of that the layers of interpretation that the mind creates can go on and on and on forever. Many people just hang out in those layers without ever making direct contact with the base. Except maybe with the first lick of the ice cream. Then they finish the ice cream while thinking about something else. You could call it a grounding. Hanging out with physical sensation grounds you in the foundation of life which is actually consciousness.

O: Sure are you saying that just feeling sensation is enough or is there a help or support to do a specific practice to feel sensation?

G: Simply feeling sensations is enough. Nevertheless the reality of the situation is that a particular practice creates a framework within which you stay with it and go deeper. If you just sit down in a chair maybe somebody comes in and you start talking. Or you notice ‘Ohh there is this mess that I didn’t clear up yesterday I better go and clear that up.’ On the other hand if you go to a predetermined place and you give yourself exclusively to a somatic practice, like sensitive yoga or somatic meditation, then you are in this enclosed space. You created a frame and in that frame you are more likely to be able to become deeply in touch with physical sensations.

I don’t have any reason to believe that any particular kind of sensation works better than any other. So therefore I couldn’t say that any particular practice works better than any other. I would say that the practice has to be a somatic practice. Putting you in touch with your body generating sensations. Of course the body is always generating sensations. When you are still, meditating or in the hammock, there are many less sensations than when you are active. An effective somatic practice will have both. The changing sensations of a dynamic practice allow mind to calm and clarify gradually, without struggle. The less changing sensations of a passive practice invite a deeper intimacy.

So practice helps. It’s not the practice istelf, it’s not the technique itself. It’s what the techniques make possible; which is feeling sensations deeply enough for it to be a real intimacy. This deep intimacy brings you into direct contact with the intelligent presence of consciousness.

(Interview with Olivia Crooks, July 2018)

Somatic Environmentalism

When I was younger spirituality seemed to be the main focus and interest for young people, but now when I look at that generation in their teens there seems this huge concern for climate and what’s going to be happening to the world that they are growing into. Spirituality seems to be put to the side of it and I want to know is there is any relationship is there

Well first of all what you are saying is true. The momentousness of the changes that are going on in the biosphere is overwhelming.  It’s actually not just a climate crisis. It is also a soil crisis, an insect crisis and more. This is all making it very difficult for any intelligent and informed person to prioritise anything else: other than responding to that.

I think there is a pressure there that may be especially strong in young people because in a temporal sense they feel like they have more to lose, more of a life to lose. So I think that’s obviously what is going to happen and should happen: that  young people should be looking at that reality and prioritising their relationship to it. However that reality is nothing less than an environmental catastrophe.

Nevertheless, human beings are still spiritual beings. We still have spiritual needs. If those  needs are not met it’s much more difficult to respond to crisis. Especially one of such massive proportions. If we are not spirtually grounded that response will be deeply flavoured by anxiety, fear  and grief. It is not that these qualities shouldn’t be present. It’s natural that people should feel those things.  If those feelings are not contextualised in something deeper then it will be very difficult to respond fruitfully.

Human beings for generations, thousands of years, have been trying to find out how human beings can live in harmony together, and nobody has found out. I think the reason why nobody has found out is because the looking for the answer has been taking place in a very narrow domain or spectrum of human experience.  The spiritual has been almost completely eliminated.

Most religions are not an exception to this as they are expressions of mind trying to solve deep existential longings. We can see from both the diversity and similarity of these so called solutions how unlikely they are. How they are products of mind. One religuious story makes claims about Yahweh. Another about Elohim, A third about Allah. Even if they don’t all point in excatly the same direction, i think they are all responses to the same longings and uncertainties.

These longings arise from our spiritual nature. The religions that respond to them may have a genuine spiritual foundation, but we can see by comparison of their ideological superstructures that they have been developed by mind. Religions and their stories and beliefs are not going to help us deal with this potentially fatal ecological catastrophe. Being out of touch with our spiritual nature means we are not facing it with all our resources. We need more than just the ingenuity of mind.

I think there is a very deep need for our external behavioural and technological response to have a spiritual grounding: to have a grounding in what human beings actually are. We need to take into account what human beings need in order to be happy. I think there is a huge blind spot in the collective understanding of human beings and their needs. That blind spot is expressed in not knowing what we really need to be happy.

Most of us know now we don’t need more cars, houses, clothes, land.  Of course some idiots still think that that’s the case, or still act as if that’s the case. However many people in the so called developed world realise that that’s not the case: that that’s not what makes you happy.  Also all the research tells us that what actually makes us happy is friendships, community. Yet this hasn’t really been factored into our understanding of human nature.

It’s very easy for that to be reduced to our biological vulnerability, that that is why we need each other. Now that is true, but there is more to it than that. That more arises from our spiritual nature: which, technically speaking, is consciousness. I don’t mean the consciousness of the conscious mind. I mean something deeper, broader and more powerful that contextualises and generates the conscious mind.

This is our spirituality. Contrary to what most spiritual teachers preach our spiritual nature actually carries our deepest need: the need to give, to love, to support. Our biology creates very potent needs to drink, to sleep, to breathe, to fuck. All of these things are powerful but our deepest need is to love and this is a spiritual need.  This is coming from the nature of consciousness as love.  It needs to express itself and if that’s ignored and people are given all the food, shelter, protection, safety they need, they are not yet happy.

Our deepest need is the need to love: not in a clinging, romantic, sexual way but in a deeper way directly from the nature of consciousness itself.  I’ve heard you say that we need to respond to this crisis not from fear but from love. I would completely agree but that doesn’t mean love in a romantic, sexual even familial sense that we love our families, children, parents, lovers. I mean love in a much deeper sense. The love that is actually our fundamental nature, our spiritual nature.

If that love is not able to express itself you are not going to be satisfied. You are not going to be happy. It does not need to express itself sexually or romantically, it needs to express itself simply by giving. That’s basically how you do it, how you express it.  Of course people are doing this all the time. When you help somebody across the road,  when you tell them where to go when they ask a question,  when you help a stranger : that’s all an expression of this love.

Without a clear understanding of and ability to express that need to love it’s very difficult for anybody to be really effective in their response to this crisis. Their efforts will be diluted and distorted by the fear element and the anxiety element. Any kind of emotional instability clouds your judgement and makes it much more difficult to act in a coherent, effective way.

What has precipitaed this crisis is heightened individuality: everybody living almost completely for themselves. Getting what they want without considering what everybody, everything, needs. In doing so we have been raping the planet. The opposite of individuality would be a sense of wholeness.

James Lovelock came up with the  idea that the earth is a living, self regulating  system that is now responding to human beings.   So what I think is absolutely essential for the effectiveness of human responsiveness to this situation is that we become able to act from a sense of the wholeness: rather than just from our own fear, anger or disappointment. Those feelings mirrored and amplified in millions of people acting from a disturbed place is not going to be enough.

Of course you will be, you need to be, disturbed by this situation. If not, you won’t act. The disturbances we experience take place in more superficial aspects of our being: our biology, our psychology. However there is a part of you that can not be disturbed by anything external. That part is your spiritual nature. Disturbances in your mind and body do not, can not create disturbances in spirit. There is only one thing that can create spiritual disturbance, and that is an inability to love, to give: an inability to express the love that you most deeply are.

The love that you most deeply are is the fundamental aspect of human nature. It’s not secondary, it’s not peripheral. It’s the core of our nature as consciousness. It came before biology. It came before the mind. It is immune to all of their vulnerabilities and needs.  It’s not actually disturbed by them because its prior to all of that, it’s more fundamental than our biology. I think it’s very very important that people get in touch with that so they can act from a coherent, fearless place in response to what they are feeling on a more superficial biological and social level .

So practically how do we do that.  How do we do that as individuals? 

We have to get in touch with the presence of consciousness as the ground of our experience and as the deeper ground of our being.  We can do that in  two domains: the domain of action and movement, and the domain of stillness. Then we need to externalise it into the domain of relationship. To get in touch with the wholeness, with the love that we most deeply are we need to become very intimate with our own presence. Intimate enough with our own presence for that intimacy to reveal our nature clearly.

All of those momentary, easily gratified, easily fulfilled biological, psychological and social needs do not constitute the totality of what we are. Actually there is something much bigger than those kind of needs which is our spiritual nature.  It also has its need, but it is a very simple fundamental need. It is the need to give, whereas our biological needs are all a need to get.  So we have to go from being only getters to givers.

But our biological neediness is still going to function

Yes those needs are still going to function. As long as we identify completely with our biology, which includes our social nature, then it’s all about getting and we are trying to save the planet so we can get more life. That’s why we are doing it. We are doing it to get. This won’t work. This is what has caused the problem in the first place.

People want to give to their children, but that’s still coming from biology. What’s the big deal about your children, what about the children of the animals, the insects?

So, the shift that we need is a shift away from being a relentless consumer. Valuing yourself and your life according to your ability and opportunity to consume is at the root of the problem. Consumption has become the compass of happiness, but it’s broken. It’s not working. This is why the GDP of every country has to increase every year. This is done by increasing consumption.  Production has to increase so that consumption can increase.

You have to stop being a comsumer internally. It is not enough to just stop buying. If you feel inadequate, lacking, empty you will consume somehow. And you will feel empty, lacking, inadequate as long as you are out of touch with your spiritual nature, with the love that you most deeply are. To no longer be a compulsive consumer you have to be in touch with the presence of consciousness.

Because the presence of consciousness resides in all of us

Yes we are momentary expressions of the presence of consciousness: all of us.

So it is about shifting focus and tuning in? 

It’s certainly not about becoming something, someone different. It’s not even about learning anything in the sense of accumulating external information or data. It’s about becoming intimate enough with who and what you already are to see more deeply than the superficial social, psychological and  biological elements to which we’ve reduced ourselves. We need to be able to go down deeper than the particularities of our psychology and biology and recognise that which is universal.

The spiritual in me is in no way different than the spiritual in you, except in geographical location. That means a different nervous system, but not a different spirit. A different conscious mind, but not a different consciousness. Spirit, consciousness is not a thing. It can not be quantified, divided, broken. It is a seamless singularity expressing itself not only in each of us human beings, but also in the whole of existence.

The possibility of becoming grounded in the presence of consciousness is open to anybody whose life gives them the space to be quietly with themselves a lot.  Not everybody has that, but rather than Facebooking, watching TV, going to movies:  just hang out quietly, attentively with yourself.  If you need to move, move; if you need to be in stillness be in stillness.  If you need to do it with other people do it with other people. People like to do those things together.

Are there specific practices that will get you more directly in touch with that?  

Well historically speaking perhaps the most significant are yoga and meditation, but also other conscious movement forms like Tai Chi and Chi Gong can work. Any moving practice could be adapted to become a lens into our nature, as a way of becoming intimate with our nature.  Meditation is very often presented as a self help technique. You are encouraged to become more mindful, more present: but to what?  You are being asked to pay attention to your psychology. This is not enough.

To get in touch with your spiritual nature you need a practice that has no other, external goal. It can’t be designed to make you fitter, healthier, more fexible, more focussed, more calm, more insightful. Maybe it can be adapted, but all external goals and intentions need to be stripped away so that your nature can reveal and express itself. When that happens of course you do become more calm, more focussed, more compassionate, more insightful. These things can’t be your goal. Your goal has to simple be to become as intimate with your own nature as possible. This you do simply by becoming as intimate with your own presence as possible. This you do simply by becoming as intimate with your own body as possible. That is somatic spirituality.

You don’t need profound insights into the nature of reality. You don’t need to meet God. You just need the opportunity to become intimate with your own presence. Of course that is going to calm your mind, clarify your understanding and give you an insight into the nature of reality, but that shouldn’t be the purpose. Those limited intentions should not be the purpose because those things can be achieved without getting in touch with the presence of consciousness directly. If you don’t make that direct contact regularly enough you are not going to be released from the consumerist momentum that is inevitably generated by reducing yourself to a biological phenomenon.

Are there any practices that do that

Any somatic practice that has no external goal could do it. For it to work it has to offer deep and sustained intimacy with physical sensation. Not just specific and particular phsyical sensations, but sensation itself. It is in the heart of sensation that we are presented directly with the presence of consciousness. This journey must be made unhindered by any belief system, any conceptual ideology. The  mind can not take you there, but it has to, and it will, come with you. There must be no external authority. The authority comes from the sensations being generated by the body: from the intelligence of consciousness by way of the intelligence of the body. This makes it somatic spirituality.

(Interview with Olivia Crooks February 2019)

 

Separateness and Wholeness

Megalomaniac politicians are not really the cause of ecological catastrophe. Sociopathic CEOs are not really the cause of ecological catastrophe. Capitalism is really not the cause of ecological catastrophe. Though we do need to be rid of all of them.

This catastrophe, shared equally by politicians, bankers, businessmen, engineers, academics, carers, educators, adults and children everywhere, and with every other form of life, is not caused by human greed, selfishness and agression.

It is caused by ignorance.

Selfishness and greed, capitalism and debt, tyranny and bigotry, insecure politicians, avaricious bankers and exploitative corporations are simply the explicit agencies through which that implicit ignorance functions.

It is not ignorance in general that has precipitated and will entrench this catastrophe. The knowledge and understanding accumulated by so many is potentially available to all.

It is a very specific ignorance. One that in being consistently overlooked has spawned a destructiveness incalculable in its depth and effect.

It is ignorance of human nature.

Of course we know a great deal about the human body. We also know some about our remarkable minds. We know a lot about our behaviour, collectively and individually. Yet all this knowledge has not even managed to secure genuine happiness for those to whom it is freely available.

A truly happy human being is a rare creature. Yet all human beings long for happiness. Not only for themselves, but also for those that they love.

This longing comes hand in hand with deep feelings of insecurity, isolation and impotence. These feelings express themselves through anxiety, mistrust and fear into stupid, selfish, agressive behaviours. We know about this. We are living this.

Yet these feelinsg also have a deeper root. That root is alienation. We feel alienated from the sources of power. We feel alienated from nature. We feel alienated from each other. We even feel alienated from ourselves: continuously censoring, restraining and judging our actions and inactions.

All of this leaves us deeply marooned in a sense of ineradicable separateness. We even feel separate from those that we love. Even also when they are right beside us.

Of course, it is obvious, we only have to open our eyes to see, that we are separate. To touch you i have to reach out and cross the space that separates us: even when you lie beside me. When i watch you eating i receive no nutrients at all. My lungs can not provide you with oxygen. On all this we must agree.

Yet does this actually mean that we actually are separate?

It is equally easy to see that in many ways we are not separate at all. We are deeply affected by the actions and words of others: in so many ways. Nevertheless we are still left with a deep existential sense of separateness. Within that separateness we think and feel. From that separateness, that collective alienation, we act; we act with deep destructiveness.

This does not have to be so.

It is not human nature to be greedy, selfish and agressive. It is human nature to walk and talk. It is human nature to create and build. It is human nature to sing and dance. It is human nature to celebrate. It is human nature to love and be loved. It is human nature to want to understand. It is human nature to co-operate. It is human nature to give.

Of course it is also human nature to need to survive. It is human nature to want to flourish. It is human nature to need to feel safe and secure. It is human natute to want to express yourself as fully, freely and deeply as possible.

Our nature is not monolithic and certainly it can generate selfish and agressive behaviour; sometimes it needs to.

Yet when selfishness, greed, competetiveness and agression become our self image, our identity we are in deep trouble. If we believe that it is human nature to be greedy, selfish and agressive, then why try to change our competetive, destructive behaviours? How can we better our nature?

Perhaps we can’t. Yet perhaps we aren’t competetive, greedy and agressive by nature. Perhaps they are only superficial ways that our nature expresses itself when we feel unsafe, insecure, isolated, alienated, separate from the rest of the universe.

The problem that we are facing is one of separateness overwhelming and destroying wholeness. Most obviously perhaps this destruction of wholeness is playing out in the devastation of the natural world. Only a fool would deny that an organism not only depends on its environment, but is an expression of it.

We may be able to identify distinct animal and vegetable species. We may be able to identify discrete local activities of natural populations and even their individual members. This individuality neither contradicts nor denies wholeness. Quite the reverse. There would be no animals without plants. There would be no plants without insects. There would be no insects without animals.

Nature is a circle, a wheel, a dynamic, mutating wholeness.

It is incredibly creative, adaptable, resilient. Not inexhaustibly though. Robust and resilient though it may in some ways be, it is also extremley delicate. The balance of nature is a multidimensional internetwork of finely interacting parts and nodes. They all depend to some extent on each other. They all depend to a great extent on each other. They all depend completely on each other.

Is it a co-incidence that as global heating rises to almost irresistibly dangerous levels, the insect population is in drastic decline?  Is it a co-incidence that as nature’s diversity is being rapidly reduced the quality of topsoil is almost eroded?

Of course it isn’t. Nature is a dynamic singularity. It is resilient and adaptable, but, it cannot withstand the relentless onslaught of human stupidity for very much longer.

Whether this devastating onslaught continues may still be in part be up to you. You know that you can learn. You have been learning all your life. Perhaps you can learn to change your behaviour. Perhaps you can even learn to change your attitudes: to nature, to growth, to security, to others, to the ‘other’.

What you most need to do. What i most need you to do. What everyone and everything most needs you to do is to get in touch with wholeness.

Your sense of separateness will not be eroded by thinking about it. It will not be eroded by reading about wholeness, ecology, systems or interconnectedness. It will only be eroded by experiencing wholeness.  It will only be eroded by experiencing yourself as wholeness. It will only be eroded by experiencing yourself as The Wholeness.

This is not a plug for mysticism, nor any escapist esotericism. There are no spirits lurking in the heart of trees that we can propitiate. There are neither angels nor demons watching over our shoulders that we can do a deal with.

We have caused this problem. Only we can solve it. We can solve it only with the tools that nature has give us: with our human nature.

These tools can be encapsulated in three great gifts, three powers, three expressions of intelligence. The capacity to feel. The power to act. The ability to think.

Through these powers, these tools we have brought wholeness to the brink of extinction. Yet with these tools we can also rediscover wholeness. With them we can honour and express that wholeness. We may even be able to sustain a natural wholeness on this planet that includes the human race.

We use our ability to think to guide our power to act. Yet our ability to think is subconsciously driven by our capacity to feel. When we feel separate, we think and act selfishly. If we feel insecure, we think and act competetively. When we feel inadequate, we think and act with greed.

You can feel insecure and you can feel safe. You can feel inadequate and you can feel complete. You can feel fragmented and you can feel whole.

It is in our capacity to feel that we can find the resilience and resources to sustain the wholeness upon which we all depend. It is our core power, our most formidable resource. Yet its full power lies unrecognised by secular, religious and spiritual culture, and inaccessible to our needs.

To release this power, which is our spiritual power, we need only one thing: courage. Particularly the courage, the willingness to feel. This willingness has of course been eroded in all of us by the history of our suffering. We none of us want, like to feel pain.

Yet we do, and we must. We must be willing to feel pain if we are to fully experience joy. We must be willing to feel pain if we are to fully experience our own nature. We must be willing to feel anything and everything if we are to understand our nature.

We must be willing to feel fully the anxiety of our sense of separateness. So deeply that it dissolves into the deeper awareness of wholeness. As it does.

Only by way of our shadows can we come to the light that we are. Only by way of our weakness fully experienced can we come to our strength. Only by deep experience of our solitude can we find our deepest most potent solidarity.

Only then will we be able to find the resilience, wisdom, compassion and resolve to meet this catastrophe with the intelligence, integrity and dignity that we need.

Vote for Life: whatever your political inclinations.

The Twenty First Century Human Being is facing the biggest challenge and potential catastrophe of human history. Although many may be in subconscious denial, and others are clearly in conscious denial, our collective blindness will cost us all.

The cost, it is clear, will not be paid only by human beings. It will be paid by all forms of life on this planet, by every species known and unknown, vegetable, animal, reptile or insect. This is a cost unquantifiable. A cost that should make you sick to the marrow of your bones to know that you will not only pay this cost, but have incurred it.

We can look for scapegoats, and we will find them. Yet in doing so we will once again be deluding ourselves and pushing possible solutions further into the domain of unlikelihood. We have, we are, and we will all continue to contribute to the problem. Even as some of us look honestly for solutions. Even as others find and implement them.

There is no bad guy here. If blame is appropriate, we are all to blame. If you are inclined to quantify and apportion that blame then you are further compounding the problem.

We are all equally guilty. We are all equally innocent.

Not one of us chose to be born. Not one of us chose our parents, our race, our gender, our birth nationality. Not one of us chose the comparative size of our footprint and the amount of damage it does.

Yet many of us have the privilege and the power to respond immediately and definitively to our common crisis. Especially those of us who live in a democracy.

It may well be true that democracy is an inefficient and unjust political system. It may also be that contemporary democracies are breaking under the weight of inequality, austerity, population displacement and all the other consequences of exploitative economics.

Even so, there is some life, some purchase available in democracy. Just as some can be made by individual consumer choices. Every little counts. Not least in transforming our habits and thinking from that of a careless consumer to that of a careful caretaker. Like wise we can reconsider our voting habits and intentions in the light of what is undeniably the biggest issue facing each and every one of us: runaway ecological catastrophe.

It is happening now: more and faster than you think.

Democratic elections are also happening all the time across the globe. And even though the old patterns and loyalties are shifting the same options and aspirations remain. All of the conventional options, and their underlying aspiration of economic security, improvement and growth are deeply embedded in the roots of our common crisis.

By voting along, or even against, traditional political fault lines we are voting for the continuation of exploitative and destructive economic systems of competition, accumulation, consumption and waste.

No traditional political party, nor their populist mutations, would even dare to present a manifesto of reduced growth, reduced income, reduced consumption. Nor to prioritise caring for the ‘other’ over caring for self. Yet that is what we need if life on this planet is not once again to be reduced to a fragile shadow of its present, though rapidly fading, magnificence.

It may well be that voting for a ‘Green’ party dedicated primarily to environmentally sound social and economic policies will not bring them into power. This does not mean that it is meaningless or useless.

We have to begin somewhere. We have to see the problem clearly, and our parts in it. Not just our consumerist habits and (unconsciously) exploitative aspirations. We also have to see that while reducing our ecological footprint with our consumer choices may have little impact. It will have some.

Likewise voting for environmental policies may not yet elect environmental parties. Nor will it remove the deep economic and political constraints within which they function. Yet it will make a difference. It will make a statement. It will affect the politcal landscape. We can not know for certain how much.

Are you willing to allow cynicism to determine the fate of this planet?

If a people get the government that they deserve, or if they don’t, you are a human being. This means you have the power to act, the power to choose, the power to push back, even if only a little, against the forces of destruction.

Not doing so can only guarantee catastrophe. Doing so will at worst delay it, and perhaps even prevent it.

Of course, nobody, no institution, no political party, no NGO knows exactly what is required. Nobody ever will unless everyone begins to take whatever action they can.

However, action taken out of fear and anger tends only to muddy the waters. We need to change our behaviour, but to change our behaviour we need to change our attitudes. To change our attitudes we need to examime the assumptions underlying them. In fact we need to challenge them. Not only with our minds but also with our hearts.

To save the world we have to change the world: radically, fundamentally. Yet how the world changes is determined by human beings: by our actions, by our desires, by our fears, by our beliefs.

A different world requires a different human being. We can’t change our DNA. We can learn to change our behaviour. To do so we must learn to change our attitudes and beliefs.

We must take less, consume less,  use less, and we must complain less. We must give more, as much as we can: to nature, to others, to the future. We must substitute the anxiety and doubt that creates greed and agression with generosity and trust.

This is definitely possible. We are exploitative because we dont’ feel safe, satisfied, fulfilled. We dont’t feel those things because we look to the ‘other’ to provide them for us. This is not only stupid, but it is the root cause of our destructiveness.

The only way that we can feel safe enough to stop exploiting is to recognise how powerful we are: both as individuals and collectively. The power that has brought this catastrophe upon us is the same power that can resist it. The power to think, choose and act that flows through all human beings.

Yet it has to flow more deeply than it has.

Human beings do not understand themselves. In our ignorance we seek satisfaction where it can not be found. Without ever finding more than brief moments of limited satisfaction, we are destroying that which we use to provide our satisfaction: nature.

Nature is not only the source of all the products, gadgets, distractions with which we seek to alleviate our anxieties. It is also the source of life, of our life, and also of our nature.

It is because we are out of touch with our own nature that we are destroying Mother Nature. Only by becoming deeply intimate with your own nature will you be able to fully relinquish the need to get, take, accumulate and consume. This you can do by taking the time to become intimate with your own presence, and with the presence of others.

Until then: Vote Green.

The Spectrum of Natural Consciousness

 

Whatever else you may be, you are, like me, a human being. Being human may come with great gifts and privileges. Nevertheless it also comes with unprecedented challenges and tribulations. Many of these tribulations and challenges arise from ignorance. We are perhaps most tellingly ignorant about human nature itself.

Our understanding of human nature, of ourselves, is deeply prejudiced. It is prejudiced by the nature of our individual and collective experience. More deeply it is prejudiced by our chemistry, biology, neurology. Yet if we do not throw off these prejudices, as far as we can, our gifts and privileges may soon come to nothing.

We have been led to believe that nature is a warzone where individuals and species fight “tooth and claw” for survival. Of course there is a food chain within nature, and it is easier for some indivduals than others to access it. Yet there is much more to nature than fighting for survival.

Likewise we have been led to believe that human nature is selfish, greedy, aggressive. We are told that human beings must learn to be kind, decent and honest. This may not actually be the case. The fact that human selfishness, greed and aggression is everywhere evident perhaps says little about our nature and speaks rather of our behaviour.

One thing we do know for sure about human nature is that we can learn. In fact we have to learn. We have to learn to walk. We have to learn to talk. We have to learn the manners agreed upon by our society. We learn very young how to play the social game played by our parents and theirs before them. In a world where dishonesty is rewarded and greed is admired of course we learn to play that way too.

This does not mean that it is our nature to play that way, only to learn.

I will not try to persuade you. Rather i would only invite you to be your own researcher, your own scientist.

Your own nature, your unique expression of human nature is here, exactly where you are: now and always. You don’t need a degree, nor even a teacher to study and understand human nature. You don’t need much. You need curiosity about human nature and its possibilities.  You need a willingness to be unsure, uncertain. You need the time and space to look within: deeply and consistently enough to encounter the full depths of your nature, of human nature.

As you look within you will no doubt encounter both body and mind. Body will be generating sensations. Mind will be telling its stories. Perhaps about some of those sensations. Perhaps about other things altogether.

Collectively we know a lot about the human body. Our anatomical, phsyiological, neurological knowledge is impressive, and freely available. We don’t know so much about the human mind. We know some, but not as much as we know about the body.

Most, if not all, of what we know about how the body works we know through the work of others. We do not know it from direct experience. Even though the roots of the mind run deep there is still a lot that we can learn about it from examining our own experience.

One thing that it can really help to learn is that perception is always prejudiced: by culture, experience, neurology, biology, chemistry. The mind is not really a truth teller, though it can extend itself to that in some domains. Rather it is a story teller.

I invite you to turn the story telling genius of your own mind upon its source. What is it that allows you to know? What is is that allows you to experience? What is it that reveals both body and mind?

Conscious awareness is the ground of human experience. Without conscious awareness there are no stories, no sensations, no experience. Conscious awareness is the root of human experience. Conscious awareness is the source of human experience.

Now, conscious awareness is not the sum total of human consciousness. Far from it. It is only the tip of the iceberg. It is not even the same thing as the conscious mind. A cat is aware of your presence, even if it can not identify your profession.

Your conscious mind is where you think. Conscious awareness is where you experience, where you feel, look, listen, smell and taste. What you taste, smell, hear, see and feel is determined by your mind. While most of this determination is subconscious, its significance becomes part of your conscious experience, even when you don’t think about it.

When you think about it you experience your conscious mind. When you don’t need to think about it you experience conscious awareness.

Have you ever been woken from deep sleep by a loud bang, a violent vibration? On waking perhaps you were afraid, uncertain about what was happening. Your conscious mind will have tried to establish reassurance by determining what it was that created that sound, that vibration.

Yet, when the sound or vibration took place you were asleep. You were unconscious. Yet awareness was present. You woke up because vibrations of one kind or another came into your sleeping body. Then they woke you up. You were asleep, but subconscious awareness was present. Otherwise you would not, could not have awoken.

A cat, a dog, a rabbit or a chicken would have awoken also. In fact they might have been awakened by more subtle vibrations than you can detect. The fact that other species can not talk might well mean that they do not think like we do. It does not mean that they do not have consciousness.

Of course they do. They know when they are hungry. They know that you are dangerous. They may not tell fascinating stories about that hunger and danger, but they know of it nonetheless. They even communicate it to each other. Not with words and sentences perhaps, but with their own more simple languages. All mamallian species can signal danger, and much more.

Consciousness is a spectrum of intelligence, of the ability to distinguish, to know. That spectrum includes the conscious mind of human story telling. It includes conscious and subconscious awareness that we share with other species. Yet that sharing goes deeper than nervous systems and sexual reproduction.

Ask yourself what consciousness is. What characterises it? It is not the ability to differentiate and respond, a thermometer does that

One more characteristic is required: the ability to learn, to remember.

It is not just human beings that can learn, remarkable though we may be at it. It is not just mammals that can learn. Learning is the very heart of life. Actually it is the engine of life, the ability to learn.

Your DNA, which is very similar to mine, and not so different to that of a  mouse, is a record of millions, billions of years of learning. A learning that began billions of years ago when life was unicellular. A learning that has been so prodigious, so remarkable that it has generated you. That took a lot of learning, a lot of intelligence.

That took the presence of consciousness.

The story telling genius of the human mind may well be the rich fruit of evolution encoded in our remarkable neurology. Consciousness is not. Consciousness, in itself, is not only the deep root, the source of the conscious mind. It is also, clearly, the driver, the source of evolution, of nature.

At the heart of both Human Nature and Mother Nature is Consciousness.