The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Elders Of Our Time

Fifty years ago (in 1968) Donovan recorded and released the song Atlantis.  It was a world-wide hit that picked up on the hopes and dreams of a generation seeking a different world from the one that was being offered.  The final lines of the song bemoan what was, and heralded what could become:
“As the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice, and sing and dance, and ring in the new.”
Fifty years on and those who listened to, and sang along with, Donovan, are now of an age where one could expect to find elders amongst them.

Are those who were the hippies, the flower-children, now the elders of our time?  Are the elders of our time still blind?  Or, are there now, amongst these elders, those with clear sight?

Maybe it is best to start with a definition.  What or who is an elder?  One of the most insightful definitions I have found is that of Bill Plotkin, who considers an elder to be:
“… someone who, after many years of adulthood, consistently occupies his/her ultimate place without any further effort to do so.  This frees her/him for something with greater scope and depth and fulfilment, namely, caring for the soul of the world.  (An elder) does this by assisting others to prepare for, discover, and embody their souls, and by supporting the human-Earth system in the evolution of its soul.”1
Thought of this way, an elder is not simply an older person.  Nor is an elder a teacher or mentor.  An elder cares for soul – both of humans and the Earth.  In doing so, an elder understands, expresses, and is at home with, human-nature connection.

An elder then, assists us to connect with nature and our inner nature.  An elder enables us to take life’s journey ever mindful that humans can be much more than consumers and comfort seekers, alienated from our true being.

If such is an elder, has the young generation of the 1960s/70s given rise to such elders?

Yes!  True elders do live amongst us.

Bill Plotkin (quoted above) can be considered one.  He has been an eco-psychologist, wilderness guide, and author of soul-infused books, for more than 30 years.  His Wheel of Life profoundly maps the human soul-centred and eco-centred life journey.

Joanna Macy is another who readily springs to mind as an elder of our time.  Her work on facing the despair of nuclear proliferation in the 1970s, morphed into a larger body of work she called The Great Turning, which outlines a transition from an egocentric Industrial Growth Society to a soul-centric Life-sustaining Society.  She has led hundreds of workshops all over the world, and written many books enabling us to connect with our soul and the soul of the world.

Richard Louv, Thomas Berry, Chellis Glendinning, Joseph Campbell, David Suzuki, and David Korten, are just a few of the elders of our time from within the western cultural tradition.

Indigenous cultures around the world have largely maintained their elders of our times.  Sadly, western cultures have not valued these elders and what they have to offer.  All too often they, and the cultures they represent, were treated with contempt, and dehumanised, denigrated and decimated.

The (western) elders of our time, now treat indigenous eldership with respect.

Yes, we do have elders of our time.  They are no longer blind.

Do we have the ears to listen to them?

Notes:

1. Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, California, 2008

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Cultural Dependence, Nature Deficit

Modern anatomically similar humans began roaming this planet of ours some 200,000 years ago.  Those early humans were part and parcel of the environment; dependent upon it, and intimately bound up in the rhythms and cycles of the natural world.  Around 10,000 years ago the western elements of humanity began to cultivate crops and settle in one place.  Culture began.

Thus, for at least 95% of humanities existence we had been integral, necessary parts of nature.  With the emergence of western-styled culture we gradually began to become more and more dependent upon our culture and less and less on nature. 

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution only 250 years ago (less than 2% of our time on earth) we ramped up that attachment to culture at the expense of our understanding of nature.

Today, the western cultural tradition has almost lost contact with nature and has become almost entirely dependent upon culture.  Even that part of nature that nourished us (food) has been acculturated by the process of genetic modification, the addition of pesticides and herbicides, and on to the ways in which we obtain our food.  Most of us no longer have anything to do with the planting, sowing and reaping cycle; we obtain our food from supermarkets.  What is of even greater example of our detachment from nature is our water supply; we drink from plastic bottles, not from natural springs.

This massive swing away from nature has affected us in more than physiological ways.  Our psychological, emotional and spiritual states have also suffered.  So much so that one commentator, Richard Louv, has coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder, which he describes as describe “the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.”1

Yet, we have a chance to recover from this disorder.  Fortunately, we humans survived for over 98% of our existence understanding and being part of nature.  There are many examples of people and communities attempting to re-discover our natural place in the earth system. 

When we begin to re-discover nature we also re-discover our soul(s) which is not really surprising, if we realise that soul is our nature.

We are fortunate to have a number of examples and guides emerging to help us recover and re(dis)cover our natural selves and our place in nature.  In the western tradition we have the works of Richard Louv (already mentioned) and also many others, such as: Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, Thomas Berry, David Korten and Chellis Glendinning.  In the country in which I now live (Australia) we have the example and writings of John Seed.  There are many many others.

Then, of course, we have the example and teachings of indigenous peoples from all over the world.  In learning from indigenous peoples we, from a western heritage, must be careful not to steal or take as our own the practices, rites, or mysteries that do no belong to us.

We do not need to.  All we need do is enter the forest and…
…Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.”2
Notes:
1. Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, Workman Publishing, New York, 2005.

2. Final two lines from the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner, quoted in Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, New World Library, Novato, California, 2008, p 29

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Something Has Come Up

A few days ago a friend rang to postpone a meeting we had planned.  “Something’s come up,” he said.  Following our telephone conversation I pondered that phrase: Something’s Come Up.

Things do, don’t they?  Come up, I mean.  No matter how precisely we plan, and attempt to control, our lives, things change.

Something Has Come Up is the flip side of the coin where the other side is the phrase, All Things Must Pass.  Things arise, things pass.  Understanding, and accepting that simple truth allows us to be content.  Knowing this, we can be content in the midst of happiness or sadness.

Misfortune arises and I react with sadness.  Yet, knowing that All Things Must Pass allows me to be content – knowing that the sadness will pass.

When I feel happy, even though All Things Must Pass and my happiness will subside, I can remain content.

In each of the above two paragraphs I could have substituted the phrase All Things Must Pass with the phrase Something Has Come Up.  My sadness will ease because something comes up.  My happiness will subside because something comes up.

Why do all things pass?  Why does something come up?

Simply because all things are connected.

The world is not a mechanistic machine in which events occur in a linear orderly fashion.  Our western-styled culture has adopted such a view over the past few centuries.  In doing so our approach has been to break things apart and study them in isolation, neglecting the wider context and the systems within which all things exist.  So, we have learnt more and more about less and less. 

Eastern and indigenous cultures, however, have understood the interconnectedness of things and that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.

Over the past hundred years or so aspects of western science have also begun to understand this holistic worldview.  Quantum Physics, Systems Theory, Complexity Theory, Chaos Theory, the science of Emergence, the Butterfly Effect, and many more theories and ideas are disrupting the long-held mechanistic view of the world.

Our social environment, by and large, seems to be lagging behind.  The ways in which we approach education, health, social services, commerce, energy, transport, policy-making, ad nauseum, cling to a mechanistic, piecemeal, linear approach.

By clinging to this approach we continue to think that by analysing situations in pieces, planning in a linear fashion, and thinking we have the mechanisms to fix problems, all we are doing is creating bigger and bigger messes.

We must begin to understand that we are part of an infinite, interconnected, co-existing, and co-creating universe.

That means seeing the two sides of the coin:

  • All Things Must Pass
  • Something Has Come Up

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Does Karma Negate Compassion?

What place does compassion play if those suffering are doing so because of karma?  From a deterministic viewpoint offering compassion to those experiencing karmic debts is of little value.  The logic of this simplistic view of karma is that there is no point in seeking to alleviate suffering, no point in seeking social justice.

Such a logic is flawed.  Flawed because of a misunderstanding of karma, and flawed, paradoxically, from an understanding of karma.

Karma is an extremely difficult concept to understand, especially for those of us with a western cultural heritage.  We tend to view karma as a form of retributive justice.  Thus, if I do something “bad” in this, or a previous, life then I will suffer later in this, or the next, life.  From this perspective, it becomes possible to look at someone who is suffering now and adjudge them as having done something in their past that is the cause of their present suffering.  We can also think, mistakenly, of karma as being synonymous with fate or predestination.

Yet, karma, at least from the understanding that the Buddha left us with, is somewhat different.
Although karma can be thought of as providing an explanation for present suffering, it is not the only cause.  The Buddha made reference to a number of other possible causes of events or experiences in our present lives, including physical, biological, and environmental causes.

The concept of karma had been around long before the time of the Buddha.  The Buddha, however, emphasised the element of cetana (translated as volition, motivation,  or intention.)  An illustration of this is to think of two people plunging a knife into another persons chest.  One of these persons is a murderer and does so with the intent to kill the other.  The second is a surgeon and does so with the intent to save the life of the other.  The actions are similar, yet the intentions are vastly different.

Thus, intentions, and state of mind are given more weight than the action and the result.  For those of us brought up in a western culture that emphasises outcomes this can be difficult to fully grasp.

If we think of karma in this way, then it is our present or future state of mind, or consciousness, that is influenced by our past or present intentions.  Thus, our present and future happiness is the karmic result of past or present contentment and intention to live joyfully.  Similarly, our present or future painful state is the result of our focusing on negative energies in the past. 


Returning to the idea that showing compassion in the face of karma is a waste of time and effort, we must ask ourselves: what karmic future are we creating for ourselves if our present intention is to show a lack of compassion?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Is It Right To Forgive?

It seems right to forgive, doesn’t it?  After all, we hear such proclamations often from pulpits and religious sectors.

We also hear calls for apologies to be made.  Within the public domain we often hear these couched in phrases such as “we call on him/her to apologise, and to withdraw.”

Forgiveness and apology seem to go together.  One person apologises and the other forgives.  Sometimes, forgiveness is not offered until such time as an apology is given.

Then too, there are times when we hear that forgiveness cannot, or should not, be given because the crime has been too horrific, or the hurt too great.

In all these situations, forgiveness is thought of as something offered because someone has done wrong.  A hurt or crime has been committed and the “victim” is sufficiently humane, or compassionate enough, to forgive the “offender” for the wrongdoing.

Apologies, and forgiveness, are couched in the framework of right/wrong and victim/offender.
Is that really what forgiveness is?  Is forgiveness about righting a wrong?  Is forgiveness about a victim forgiving an offender?

Not really.

Forgiveness is really about healing a damaged relationship.  Forgiveness is about recognising our common humanity and restoring balance when harmony is disrupted.  Forgiveness recognises that, being human, we all make mistakes.  Think of it like the making of a movie.  Various takes of scenes are made, sometimes dozens before the final, picture-perfect (excuse the pun) take is accepted.  Each of the takes before that final take can be thought of as mis-takes.  In each of those takes, the actors, the camera crew, the extras, the make-up artists, the director, the producer, and everyone else on set did their job the best they could at the time.  Each of those mis-takes were accepted and the next take was ordered up by the director.  In the same way, our mis-takes can be accepted, we can learn from them, we can acknowledge to those around us that we made a mis-take, and we can yearn for better in the next “take.”

So it is with forgiveness.  True forgiveness is offered (given) even before the mis-take is made.  Indeed, the etymology of the word embodies this idea.  The word forgive comes to us from the Latin word perdonare.  Doesn’t sound or look like it does it?  However, if you trace its journey perdonare was translated into the Germanic precursor of English.  Per became for and donare was translated as giefan, so we got forgiefan, and from there the modern English word forgive.

In Latin, per means with or before, and donare means completely, without reservation.  Hence, we could define forgive as “to give completely, to give without reservation, and to do so beforehand.”

Looked at this way, forgiveness becomes something we do for ourselves, rather than something we do for the person who we perceive to have harmed us in some way.  As too, is apology.  We apologise because it is healing for the relationship, not because it may heal the perceived hurt of the other person.

Whether we perceive ourselves to be the victim or the offender is largely immaterial.  When either, or both, parties make a mis-take, then the relationship between them is knocked out of balance.  The key to restoring balance, as with so many things in life, is honest and transparent communication.  Taking the time to offer an apology or to for-give allows for a restoration of balance and perhaps even, a more satisfying relationship.


Forgiving then, is not right, or wrong.  Forgiving helps to restore a relationship that has become unbalanced.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Just Breathe

Our aspirations often get phrased in the future tense.  We aspire towards something off in the future.  Aspirations are thought of as a synonym for dreams – something yet to happen.

Dreams are necessary.  Where would we be if we did not dream?  Where would we be if we did not dream of things to improve our lives, individually and collectively?  Without dreams we may not have invented the wheel, the printing press, or iPhones.  Without dreams we would not have abolished slavery, women would still not be eligible to vote, and the Berlin Wall would not have fallen.

Dreamers – there have been many.  We know of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech.  George Bernard Shaw, later quoted by JF Kennedy, famously asked “I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  And, of course, John Lennon acknowledged the many dreamers, singing:
“You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one.”
Yes, dreams (or aspirations) are useful.

We can think of an aspiration in another sense too.  One that is much more immediate.  To aspire also means to breathe.  Not surprisingly really, for it comes from the same Latin root, aspirare – meaning to breathe at, or blow upon.

When we consider our breath we are brought to the here and now.  Our breath is immediate.  We breathe now.  We aspire.  We breathe in, we breathe out.  Our breath also connects us to the cycle of life of which we are a part.  The oxygen in the air we breathe now was once the oxygen released by a tree on the other side of the planet.  At some stage that oxygen has breathed in by another human being somewhere in the world, and sometime in the past.  Our breath connects us to everyone and everything and roots us in the present moment.

Teachers of mindfulness and meditation often get us to use our breath as a tool.  It is the one tool we have access to all the time.  By concentrating on, or focusing upon, our breath we bring ourselves into a space of mindfulness on what is happening here and now.  Our mind begins to let go of its clutter and chatter.  We begin to find a peacefulness and a clarity that is often not there in our busy, hectic, future-oriented days.

Often our community development or social justice work can be future oriented and focused upon our dreams – our aspirations.

Maybe we would benefit sometimes from slowing down and concentrating upon our breath – our aspiration.

By doing so, we may find that what we really want is right here and now.  We may find that by paying attention to the present we become mindful of the opportunities that exist right in front of our (breathing) nostrils.