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 28 December 2022

Three Worlds

Drawing: Jannoon028
Each of us interacts with three worlds:

  • The World Around Us.
  • The World Between Us.
  • The World Within Us.

How we relate to each of these is different for each one of us. Some of us may give priority to one world and neglect the other two. Some may even attempt to undermine or dismiss one of the worlds, contending that it is either irrelevant or non-existent. Whatever the relationship we have with these worlds, our wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, and the wellbeing of the entire planet, are dependent upon our being able to balance each of these worlds in a harmonious and compassionate manner.

If we suffer from anxiety, depression, or trauma, we may decide to seek professional help via a psychologist or other helping profession. Yet, more often than not, this help will seek to adjust the “sufferer” to the norm of society. This turns out to be only a partial, and insufficient, treatment. This is so because only one of our worlds is being considered.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (20th century Indian philosopher, writer, teacher, and speaker) is attributed with this quote:

‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profanely sick society.’

Although there is no reference in any of his writings or speeches to this exact quote, the sentiment contained in it was a theme that Krishnamurti often referred to.1 Essentially, he was alerting us to the limitations of seeking health and healing through only one of our three worlds.

The Hungarian-Canadian psychologist, Gabor Maté, takes up this theme in his latest book – The Myth of Normal.2 Maté has spent decades working with trauma sufferers and has written extensively about his work and research. He is convinced that ‘behind the epidemic of chronic afflictions, mental and physical, that beset our current moment, something is amiss in our culture itself.’

We cannot heal one of our worlds if we do not also heal the other two. Or, looking at this from a slightly different perspective; we cannot remain healthy in one (or two) of our worlds if the other world(s) are unhealthy.

When we honestly consider each of our three worlds, we notice that each of them contains elements that are healthy, yet also elements that are unhealthy.

The World Around Us contains much beauty, serenity, and diversity. Just look at the butterflies, the waterfalls, the distant vista of a mountain range, or the majestic sand-waves of a desert.

Yet, the World Around Us is in an unhealthy state, and becoming steadily worse. Look at the pollution of rivers, lakes, and the ocean, or the massive deforestation of rainforests, and the extremely high rate of species extinction (between 100 – 1,000 times the ‘normal’ background extinction rate.)

The World Between Us has many examples of love, compassion, kindness, and empathy, in our personal lives and at a social level. The plethora of voluntary organisations and charitable trusts gives proof to this.

Sadly though, our human relationships are also plagued with racism, misogyny, bigotry, violence, and exploitation of many forms. War still seems to be the default go-to solution to international disputes

The World Within Us has the capacity for fulfillment, contentment, happiness, and inner peace. Many of us manage to discover meaning and identity in our existence.

Unfortunately, many do not. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm (including suicide,) isolation, and addiction in many parts of the world are staggeringly high.

If we wish to heal one of our three worlds that is presently unhealthy we must do so recognising that the health of the other two is vital in that healing. Jiddu Krishnamurti and Gabor Maté, both mentioned above, make the connection between our World Within and our World Between.

The (healthy) connection between the World Around Us and our World Within Us is strikingly evidenced by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing.) Forest bathing is a slow, deliberative, mindful way of interacting with nature (especially in a forest or bush.) Each of our senses are focused and paid close attention to.

Japanese (and other) research over the past 30 years has shown the benefits of shinrin-yoku.3 The benefits vary from individual to individual and include: lower stress, decreased blood pressure, relief from various illnesses, boosting of the immune system, and many others.

Forest bathing is a reciprocal arrangement. We (humans) can only obtain the health benefits of the forest if we in turn, are willing to enable the forest to heal.

Again, as before, we cannot heal just one World by itself. All three are connected, and all three can only heal in a mutually supportive manner.


1. For example: Is society healthy, that an individual should return to it? Has not society itself helped to make the individual unhealthy? Of course, the unhealthy must be made healthy, that goes without saying; but why should the individual adjust himself to an unhealthy society? If he is healthy, he will not be a part of it. Without first questioning the health of society, what is the good of helping misfits to conform to society?’ Commentaries on Living: Series III, published in 1960, and written in the early 1950s.

2. Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture, Vermillion, London, 2022.

3. See especially: Miyazaki, Yoshifumi, The Japanese Art of Shinrin-Yoku, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2018.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Colourful Revolutions

"Colourful Revolution" Macedonia 2016
Often when people think of revolutions they are thought of as violent uprisings. Indeed, it is interesting to note that those revolutions best known by the country in which they took place – the American, French, Russian, and Chinese for example – were all violent.

But, revolution need not be violent. In fact, there are probably more examples of non-violent revolutions than there are of violent ones. Intriguingly, many of these non-violent revolutions are known by a colour. Consider these revolutions that have taken place over the past few years.

Yellow Revolution. This non-violent revolution took place in the Philippines in 1986 as an uprising against the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos. Protestors wore yellow ribbons, influenced by the 1973 hit song Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Orange Revolution. Following the disputed 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes took place arguing that Viktor Yanukovych had rigged the election. Yanukovych’s opponent, Viktor Yushchenko had orange as his campaign colour – giving the name of the revolution.

Rose Revolution. Following another disputed election, this time in Georgia, saw the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze and the end of Soviet leadership in the country. The name comes from the final days when protestors stormed parliament with red roses in their hands.

Purple Revolution. Although the term Purple Revolution did not gain widespread use in Iraq, it became known by this colour after the US President George W Bush used it. The colour refers to the colour of dye used to stain the index fingers of voters to prevent multipole voting.

Blue Revolution. This revolution, in 2005, began in Kuwait in support of women’s suffrage. The name comes from the colour of the signs that demonstrators carried. Eventually, the Kuwaiti government acceded to the demands and women were given the right to vote in the 2006 elections.

Saffron Revolution. Named for the colour of the robes worn by Buddhist monks who were the leaders in this non-violent protest. The protests were a series of economic and political ones that took place in Myanmar in late 2007.

Yellow Vest Revolution. Sparked initially by French motorists upset by increased fuel costs, this movement grew to incorporate a number of other grievances. So-called because many of the protestors wore the hi-vis yellow vests associated with construction workers.

Tulip (Pink) Revolution. This revolution in Kyrgyzstan in early 2005 became violent (the “exception that proves the rule.”) The revolution was sparked by a disputed parliamentary election and the name refers to the yellow and pink colours adopted by the protestors.

White Paper Movement. A fire in an Urumqi apartment building on 25 November 2022 killed at least 10 people. The apartment had been locked down as part of China’s covid response. The fire and the deaths sparked demonstrations, with many participants holding up blank white paper. As one protestor said, ‘The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say.’ The lock-down was subsequently lifted, but other grievances have re-kindled the White Paper Movement.

Colourful Revolution. This Macedonian revolution in the middle of 2016 got its name from the different coloured paintballs thrown by protestors at government buildings in the nation’s capital, Skopje. The revolution was in opposition to the country’s Prime Minister (Nikola Gruevski) for his part in wiretapping thousands of Macedonian citizens.  

The names of other revolutions also had not colourful, but symbolic or metaphorical names. Think of the Kitchenware (Pots and Pans) Revolution in Iceland between 2009-11 protesting the handling of the financial crisis. In late 1989 the Velvet (Gentle) Revolution in Czechoslovakia ended the 41-year rule of the one-party Communist regime. Another revolution to stand up to Soviet rule was that of the Singing Revolution from 1987 to 1991 in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The three Baltic nations obtained their independence by almost literally singing for it.

All but one of the revolutions mentioned above (the Tulip Revolution) were inherently non-violent. Violence is not necessary for revolution. It could even be argued that violent revolution tends to simply bring in a different form of authoritarianism.

We might also observe something else from the naming of these revolutions. Symbols, colour, fun, and parody are significant features of non-violence. There is no fun in a violent revolution. But, I can be fairly certain that if I was to speak with a participant in the Baltic states Singing Revolution, they would tell me they had fun and that they felt a sense of communality with their revolutionary friends.

Monday 12 December 2022

Startling Starlight

Photo: Petr Horálek
Have you recently looked up at the night sky? If you have, and you are aged over about 40 years, you might be forgiven for thinking to yourself: Where is it?

Where has the night sky gone? Where is that thing called the Milky Way?

It is estimated that today over 80% of the world’s population live in “skyglow” (diffuse, scattered skylight attributed to scattered light from ground sources.) That means that four out of five people in the world do not or cannot see the night sky in its full, natural, startling, brilliance. Furthermore, in some parts of the world this percentage is significantly greater. In the US and Europe, the figure is 99%.

That Milky Way mentioned earlier. It is hidden to more than 2/3 of the world’s population.1

Losing this experience and being unable to see the stars has enormous consequences for us (humans) as well as for the non-human species that share this planet with us.

For well over 99% of our time on Earth as Homo sapiens we lived without light pollution. Our bodies, behaviours, psyches, and emotional states adapted to the circadian rhythm of life. Essentially, that rhythm is: day is light, night is dark.

However, over the past 100 years or so we have seriously disrupted that circadian rhythm. This has impacted our health and wellbeing.

Melatonin is necessary for our health. Melatonin is produced in our bodies in response to the circadian rhythm of life and helps to regulate and maintain our immune system.

When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, so too is our supply of melatonin.

[Could there be a correlation between the rise of diseases that our immune system would normally deal with and the disruption of our circadian rhythms? I am not in a position to be able to answer that, but the question is certainly worth asking.]

Not only is night light pollution disruptive of our health and harmful to wildlife, but it is also an enormous contributor to the world’s increasing electricity consumption. Visual Capitalist (whose aim is to help cut through the clutter of data in the world) claims that lighting makes up 19% of the world’s total electricity consumption.2 Presumably, night lighting is a significant proportion of that 19%.   

Why? Why do we light up our cities at night? Why do we think that lights at night are a good thing?

Many will claim that night lights reduce crime and make us safer.

Yet there is little, if any, evidence to support this. Indeed, some research suggests entirely the opposite.

Research in England and Wales concluded that there was, “little evidence of harmful effects of switch off, part-night lighting, dimming, or changes to white light/LEDs on road collisions or crime in England and Wales.”3

Indeed, research in Chicago found a 21% increase in offending following the installation of lighting in Chicago’s streets and alleys.4 This staggering figure seems counter-intuitive, until it is pointed out that lights at night (when there are fewer people around) make victims and property easier to see!!


The increasing light pollution of our world is not good news for those of us who wish to be startled by starlight.

Our sense of place in the world, our identity of belonging to the Earth, is promoted and stimulated by our wonder, our awe, and our ability to be startled by nature.

When we lose that ability to be startled by one half of our ecosphere (the night sky) then we lose our sense of wonder. We lose who we are as humans.

Let’s turn off the lights and learn to be star-tled again.


1. Fabio Falchi et al. The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, Science Advances, 10 June 2016, Vol 2 Issue 6.

2.  Accessed 12-12-22

3. Rebecca Steinbach et al., The effect of reduced street lighting on road casualties and crime in England and Wales: controlled interrupted time series analysis, Journal of Epidemiol Community Health, 2015;69:1118–1124. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206012

4. Erica Morrow & Shawn Hutton, The Chicago Alley Lighting Project: Final Evaluation Report, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, April 2000.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Butterfly Speak

A friend recently posted, on facebook, the graphic that goes with this piece. It is a phrase redolent
with insight, meaning, and possibilities. Some in what it says, and some in what it doesn’t say. Let’s begin with what it says.

The image of a butterfly, and the reference to a caterpillar, as metaphors for two different stages of human development is a useful one. Indeed, the metaphors have been used by many seers, spiritual teachers, psychologists, and others for centuries.

So, who or what, is a Butterfly Person? The graphic seems to suggest that such a person is spiritually advanced, is now able to fly, and has surpassed the crawling stage of life. I suspect this is how many will interpret this metaphor.

As our human journey develops we do learn new language. We surely come to understand the larger stories of life and the cosmos that surround us. Those stories can contain language that may have been difficult for us to understand at an earlier stage of our journey.

Hence, to that extent, there is some validity in the message of the graphic.

However, let us delve deeper.

Let us read between the lines. Let us discover what is not said.

As humans, we do indeed, at birth, embark upon a developmental journey. Along that journey we may pass through a number of stages in our development. Or – we may not (I’ll come back to this.)

One of those who has extensively applied the metaphor of the butterfly’s life cycle to that of the human development journey is eco-psychologist, and soul guide, Bill Plotkin.1 As a biologist will tell us, the butterfly is the fourth stage in its journey. The first stage is the pupa (egg.) Following this is the lava (caterpillar) stage, as this graphic alludes to, but crucially, there is the third stage, a highly transformative stage – the chrysalis.

This is the stage, and metaphor, that Bill Plotkin most often refers to. It is a stage in the human development journey often not reached, and even less, not completed.

This is why, in today’s world, there are so few true Adults, and woefully less true Elders. A number of writers alert us to the lack of true Elders in society, notably Bill Plotkin, Stephen Jenkinson, and Robert Bly.2 They, and many others, would agree with Jenkinson’s assertion that:

‘If becoming an elder was a consequence of aging, we’d be awash in elders right about now. But it isn’t so.’

In terms of the metaphor, our society seems to have a desire to either remain a crawling caterpillar, or to jump straight to the flying butterfly stage. This is where Plotkin’s insight, and life’s work, holds the key to enabling, nurturing, and extending the numbers of true Adults and true Elders in our society.

His insight is simply this: the need for the chrysalis (Plotkin prefers the term cocoon) stage. In his magnificent book, The Journey of Soul Initiation,3 Plotkin outlines his conception and understanding of this crucial stage of the human development journey. Although not the first to outline this stage (see Carl Jung’s Red Book for instance) he has perhaps done more than any other psychologist to describe and witness it. As an overall title for this stage Plotkin refers to it as The Descent to Soul and describes it as:

‘an ecstatic and hazardous odyssey that most of the world has forgotten – or not yet discovered – an essential spiritual adventure for which you won’t find clear or complete maps anywhere else in the contemporary Western world. This journey, which begins with a dying, enables you to grow whole and wild in a way that has become rare – and yet is vital for the future of our species and our planet.’

Dying? Yes. That is what happens to the caterpillar inside the chrysalis. It dies, undergoes metamorphosis, and emerges as a butterfly.

There is a further lesson we can take from the butterfly/caterpillar metaphor. The biological term for the butterfly is the imago and inside the caterpillar there are imaginal cells – cells that understand that the caterpillar is to become a butterfly.

We could say then that the butterfly is imagined into existence.

The same is so for humans. We go through our first stages of life as children and early adolescents as caterpillars. Then at some point in our lives, whether it be in late teenage years or many years later, we enter the cocoon.4 Therein (spiritually, mythopoetically, psychologically, ecologically, socially, and soulfully) we imagine ourselves into the butterfly we are to become. This metamorphosis is possible if we are enabled, supported, and encouraged to do so by true Adults and true Elders.

Herein is what the graphic does not say. A butterfly that simply flies off, speaking its own language (maybe with other butterflies doing the same) is akin to the proliferation of olders (as distinct from elders) within our society.

One of the important tasks of true Adults and true Elders is to remember the language of the caterpillar, and to guide and support caterpillars into, and through, the ‘ecstatic and hazardous odyssey’ of the cocoon/chrysalis, so that they too might emerge as butterflies.


1. Two of Plotkin’s books are relevant here: Nature and the Human Soul (2008) and The Journey of Soul Initiation (2021), both published by New World Library, Novato, California.

2. As well as Plotkin’s books (n. 1) see especially: Jenkinson, Stephen, Come of Age:The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, 2018; Bly, Robert, The Sibling Society, William Heinemann, Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1996.

3. See my review of this book here.

4. Although as Plotkin acerbically notes, most people in our modern industrial-consumerist society get stuck in an early stage, and instead of emerging into an eco-centric view of oneself, remain stuck in a pathological ego-centric stage. Hence, never reach the butterfly stage, because the metamorphosis of the chrysalis is not undertaken.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Scientific Curiosity, Technological Control

Science and technology often seem to go hand-in-hand do they not? In careless or offhand speech, they are often spoken as synonyms for one another. That may be the case, yet the raison d’etre for each would seem to be different.

Let me begin then by defining the stimulus of each for this blog. These definitions are, admittedly, simplistic and do not cover the full gamut of the two disciplines.

Science can be said to be seeking to understand the way in which the world works. Technology, on the other hand, can be thought of as seeking to shape (or manipulate) the world to the way in which we (humans) want it to work. The rest of this blog will be based upon this rudimentary difference.

That we want to shape the world according to how we want it to be is a highly dangerous vision. Certainly, it can be claimed, and is frequently asserted, technology has provided us with many benefits and comforts that we would not have had. Yet, our technological innovations and our techno-thinking have also brought us many threats and dangers to our lives and the lives of millions of other creatures that inhabit this planet with us. Today, we are living at a time when our technology threatens the very existence of life itself via the Sixth Mass Extinction.

There have been many who have alerted us to this danger over the years. The most famous is the 18th century weaver, Ned Ludd, who gave his name (Luddites) to those who seek to alert us to the dangers of technology.

The most pressing danger is not so much how we use technology, but more; that technology is so ingrained in our cultures, that we are now living technology. This is the assertion that the eco-psychologist, Chellis Glendinning, makes in her incisive critiques of technology and western civilisation.

Glendinning’s 1994 book – My Name Is Chellis & I’m In Recovery from Western Civilization1 – is an penetrating critique of our techno-addiction. Glendinning catalogues the many ills that technology has brought to the world – trauma, psychic numbing, constriction of feeling, powerlessness, arrested psycho-social development, narcissism, and thinking disorders amongst them.

When we honestly look around us, and peer into our own psyches, we can verify the veracity of Glendinning’s claims. Consider this for one moment. What happens to our anxiety levels when: the car won’t start, the lights go out, the mobile phone network is down, we can’t access the internet?

Furthermore, what happens to the anxiety levels of a whole society when: an oil tanker spills millions of litres of oil into the ocean, when a nuclear reactor begins to melt down and/or leak radioactive gases, when insecticides poison the local water supply, when a mining company destroys a sacred site?

This is trauma.2

An Axe in the Hand of a Pathological Criminal

The most incisive and damning critique of technological progress comes from one of the world’s foremost scientists – Albert Einstein.

In December 1917 Einstein wrote to his friend, Heinrich Zangger (Professor of forensic medicine at Zurich University) that:

“All of our exalted technological progress, civilization for that matter, is comparable to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.”3

Yet even Einstein, with this insight, was unable to escape the consequences of the technological use of his scientific discoveries. It was his famous equation that set the foundation for the development of the most terrifying technology the world has yet seen – the atomic bomb.

Expanding upon Einstein’s metaphor we can recognise that more and more axes are being produced, and most of us are swinging them.

Sadly, large swathes of society seem to delight in becoming more adept at the use of the axe. Nevertheless, no matter how proficient we become in new technologies, it remains that the axes are destroying our lives and the planet.

Yet, we fail to recognise this. Failing to recognise the harm of technology, we deny the harm. And that, says Glendinning and others, is a hallmark of addiction.

A Return to Science?

This blog began with a distinction between science and technology. The rapid development of technology over the past couple of centuries has widened the distinction that was made at the beginning of this piece.

Today it is more difficult for us to pursue a curiosity about how the world works, because our technology has so shaped, controlled, and manipulated the world that the world no longer works naturally.

What is left to be curious about?


1. Glendinning, Chellis, My Name Is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Shambhala Publications, Boston, Massachusetts, 1994.

2. Ibid. p 82. Glendinning refers to the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders where trauma is defined as: ‘an event that is outside the range of usual human experience and that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone.’

3. Zangger himself went on to write (in 1924) the book Poisoning, the first book to point out the dangers of poisoning arising from technological development.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Silent Listening

A few years ago, someone pointed out to me that the word LISTEN is an anagram of the word SILENT. That’s pretty cool I thought. Cool, maybe, yet the connection between the two words is significant.

Whether listening to someone else, listening to ourselves, or listening to nature; the role of silence is critical. Indeed, it could be argued that the ability to be silent is the most basic skill required to truly listen.

Listening to Others

Listening to other people is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when we hear (or read) the word listen. And, not without cause. We spend a lot of time in communication with other people; whether sitting in a café chatting over a coffee, spending time in intimate conversation with significant others, or in a formal (or informal) setting with a group of people.

If you were a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ and able to listen-in to these conversations you would probably notice that there is not a lot of quiet time, not much silence.

Yet, silence could bring a greatly enhanced meaning to conversations. Silence can allow for a more abundant depth of listening than can a spoken response. This is especially true of conversations involving significant emotional content (such as: grief, turmoil, ecstasy, wonder, pain and loss, depression, or love and excitement.)

Silence is recognised as a core skill in the art of active/creative listening. It is a crucial part of healing circles, or indeed, any groupwork circle. Within such circles the sharing is often deep, emotionally imbued, and sometimes uttered from a place of vulnerability. Silence following such sharing does two things: First, it indicates to the sharer (speaker) that they have been heard, and that what they shared is acknowledged within the silent space that follows. Second, it allows those of us who have been privileged to listen to drop into a silent space to reflect upon what has been said and discover our common humanity.

Listening to Nature

Richard Louv1 coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder in 2005 to recognise the growing awareness that our disconnection from nature had serious implications, not only for our environment, but also for our own selves.

The writer, Hermann Hesse, noted that, ‘Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.’

That requires silence. To go into the forest, or the bush, or any natural setting, obliges us to do so in silence. In silence it is possible to truly hear what the trees, nature, the forest, the birds, the animals, are saying. Such an encounter with nature is at the heart of the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku (literally meaning to bathe in the forest environment, to take in the forest through giving mindful attention to our senses.) One of the first researchers into the benefits of forest bathing, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, says that ‘…it is clear that our bodies still recognise nature as our home…’ 2

To reconnect with nature, to recognise our home, and gain the tremendous benefits that home (nature) provides, we must appreciate the significant role of silence.

Listening to Ourselves

How often do we truly listen to ourselves? Were we to stop and sit, and honestly listen to ourselves, we might be surprised by what we learn. The 17th century French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, went further, proposing that, ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from (our) inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’

Is Pascal correct in this assertion? Perhaps if we did as he suggested, and sat in silence for awhile and listened, we might discover that he was telling a truth.

How do we listen to ourselves?

One of the most beautiful descriptions of this inner listening comes from Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, a Ngangikurungkurr woman from northern Australia. She describes the word dadirri as:

“inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia (and the world – ed.) is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation.’ When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening. Through the years we have listened to our stories. They are told and sung, over and over, as the seasons go by. Today we still gather around the campfires and together we hear the sacred stories.”3

What we further notice in this beautiful word picture is that all three aspects of listening (to others, to nature, and to ourselves) are woven together like a fine tapestry.

How do we do this? What techniques should we develop so that we can access that deep spring of awareness? There seems to be four barriers we must first get past:4

1.   Declutter your mind.  Tapping into your inner wisdom is difficult if there is a lot of clutter in the way.  You will find your own way to declutter; some ways are to go for a walk, get into nature, listen to music or meditate.  Perhaps a shower.  Have you noticed how often you’ll get a good idea in the shower?  It’s surprisingly common.  Whatever you do, you need to give your mind freedom.

2.   Ignore what you know.  Intuition deals more with feelings, insights and emotions than it does with facts and figures.  This does not mean that you reject the facts and figures, just put them aside and ask yourself how you feel about the question, issue or problem?  How is your body responding?

3.   Get out of your head.  Go with your gut.  Often we get a “gut feeling” before our brain takes over and becomes the “knower.”  Get in tune with your gut.  Do your stomach muscles contract and tighten or do they relax?  Does your heart and chest feel as if it is expanding?

4.   Let go the need to control.  Our rational mind tells us that we should be in control at all times.  However, when we wish to tap into our inner wisdom we need to surrender this desire, and trust that our intuition will provide us with insights without our need to dictate what those insights might be.

Once we get past these four barriers, then we need to simply sit and simply be silent. Not easy, admittedly, but worth the effort to become practiced with.

Since first being alerted to the anagram of SILENT and LISTEN I have come to appreciate the strong connection between the concepts of each. Silence is a crucial element in true listening, and if we wish to truly listen then we must utilise silence.

The fact that they are anagrams of each other is a reminder of this connection.


1. Louv, Richard: Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature deficit disorder, Workman Publishing Company, New York, 2005.

2. Miyazaki, Yoshifumi: Shinrin Yoku, The Japanese art of forest bathing, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2018.

3. For a full description of dadirri and more information about the work of Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann go to her Foundations website – Accessed 23 November 2022.

4. Adapted from, Meder, Bruce: Opportunities Emerging: Social change in a complex world, Rainbow Juice Publishing, Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia, 2016.

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Will Gaia Throw A Party?

Sometime on the afternoon of 15 November 2022 (GMT) a baby was born somewhere in the world.
That baby became the 8 billionth person upon this planet.

There are now as many people alive upon the Earth as the total cumulative number of humans to have ever lived during the first 150,000 years of human (Homo sapiens) existence.

It took virtually all the time we have existed upon this planet to reach the first one billion living human beings. We did so in 1804 – slightly over 200 years ago.

We then rapidly populated the Earth, adding the next six billion to reach seven billion around late 2011-early 2012.

Then, in a little more than a decade we added one billion people. One decade! It had taken us most of 200,000 years to reach our first one billion.

Do you think Gaia1 will throw a party to celebrate?

Let’s look at some of the things we humans did on that day (the day on which the 8 billionth human arrived) to acknowledge the birth. Note: these figures are just one days worth.

  • Almost 250 million tons of resources were extracted from the Earth.
  • 5.8 million tons of waste was dumped.
  • 118 million tons of CO2 was emitted.
  • Slightly less than one million tons of meat was consumed…
  • Requiring 15 million tons of water to produce that meat.
  • Almost 80,000 ha (800 sq. km) of forest was cut down (roughly the area of Barcelona, Spain, and more than the area of Beijing, China.)
  • Almost 14 billion plastic bags were produced, and less than 1% were recycled.
  • 137,000 tons of e-waste was thrown away.
  • 1.1  million tons of hazardous waste was produced.
  • 1,200 people were murdered by another person, with 650 of those killed with a gun.

Somehow, I don’t think Gaia is going to invite us to a birthday party anytime soon.


1. Gaia is the personification of the Earth in Greek mythology. Gaia is also the name James Lovelock gave to his hypothesis that the Earth acts as a superorganism and is a dynamical system regulating the biosphere and maintaining life.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

7 Decades, 7 Lessons

A few days ago I transitioned from the 7th to the 8th decade of my life as part of this magical, majestic planet. In looking back on seven decades I thought about the lessons I learnt in each of those decades. Of course, there are hundreds of lessons one learns throughout life, but here I am identifying some of the more salient ones, or at least, ones that remain with me and resonate now.

Undertaking this review I came to realise also that some lessons come in bits, I did not get the lesson all in one dose. Indeed, some lessons spanned decades in arriving. Some were also sent many times before I “got it.”

Decade 1. I was fortunate to be born in the middle of the North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand) amidst dozens of lakes, luxuriant bush, rivers, geysers, mud-pools, and volcanoes. I remember family picnics beside lakes or at the foot of waterfalls, and my father teaching me to swim in the cool lake waters. I remember playing in bushland, or amongst haystacks with our golden spaniel – Lyn. I walked through luxuriant bushland or along country lanes, with my mother always leading my curiosity, with questions such as, ‘I wonder what’s up there?’

The decade was one of wonder, joy, delight, and exploration.

Lesson 1. The world is a beautiful, wondrous place…

Decade 2. …except when it isn’t. During my second decade (in my teenage years) I heard about or saw the cruel side of the world. I heard about the killing of Soweto school children by South African apartheid forces. The My Lai massacre in Vietnam was reported on TV. I saw the famous photo of nine-year old Phan Thi Kim Phuc fleeing, naked, from the napalm bombing of her village in Vietnam. Towards the end of my second decade I watched TV reports of the shooting of four students protesting that same war at Kent State University.

Lesson 2. The world contains cruelty, injustice, and oppression.

Decade 3. University days brought a new freedom. That time was my first exploration of the world outside of family and school boundaries. Yes, there were the academic subjects to learn. Non-academic experiences included participating in student debates, listening to some of the country’s foremost poets at a local pub, attending rock concerts, and taking part in all-night parties.

During this decade I was introduced to political and social thought and action. The world’s first environmentally-based political party (NZ Values Party) was formed, and I joined. In the second half of the decade I was recruited to be part of a four-year long non-formal, community-based, education group dedicated to learning about community, self, and the relationships between each.

Lesson 3. I have a voice, both an inner voice (my emerging consciousness) and an outward voice (my environmental and social advocacy.)

Decade 4. My fourth decade found me experiencing unemployment for the first time. Eventually I gained employment in both community development and community education roles. I honed my skills as a facilitator and decided I wanted to learn more about facilitation, group dynamics, and cooperative ways of learning and campaigning.

Lesson 4. I have a calling: to bring people together for fun and/or learning purposes.

Decade 5. Stress at work led me to re-explore the practices of Zen that had first attracted me in my third decade. The Zen meditation techniques steered me towards a desire to find out more about the philosophy, psychology, and practices of Buddhism. About the same time, I came across Chaos Theory, Systems Thinking, and the concept of Emergence. All these concepts, ideas, and practices were mutually supportive.

Lesson 5. Phenomena are intricately, and exquisitely, inter-connected and are mutually sustaining.

Decade 6. My sixth decade straddled the early years of the new millennium and brought with it death and dying. During the decade my mother died (telling me a week or so before she died, ‘I am ready.’) At the end of the decade I lived through two large earthquakes in Christchurch, the second of which killed 185 people, three of them friends of mine. During one 13-month period during the decade eleven friends died. I had to come to terms not only with their deaths, but also the possibility of my own. Buddhism helped enormously.

Lesson 6. Impermanence is a fact of life (and death.) Nothing exists forever. All things must pass.

Decade 7. A shift to Australia brought me into contact with greater numbers of people exploring Buddhist philosophy and concepts such as Deep Ecology, eco-spirituality, and soul-centric psychology. This all challenged (in engaging and exciting ways) my understanding of selfhood and the human journey of development.

Lesson 7. Let it go. Understand intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and somatically the meaning of: ‘Grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.’ Furthermore, the lesson that acceptance does not mean indifference.

I wonder what lessons I shall be presented with during my eighth decade? Whatever they may be, the lessons of the past seven decades have equipped me with the curiosity and wonder as to what they may be.

At whatever decade of your life that you are in, dear reader, I wonder what the prime lessons of each decade have been for you? 

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

We use the saying, ‘Caught between a rock and a hard place,’ to indicate a difficult situation, often one in which we are faced with two possibilities, neither of which is desirable.

We have been faced with such uncomfortable choices for millennia it seems, as the saying comes from Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, composed around the 8th or 7th century BCE. At one stage during his travels Odysseus must pass between a fearsome cliff (rock)-dwelling man-eating monster and a treacherous whirlpool (hard place.)

Now, twenty-seven or twenty-eight centuries after Homer was writing, we might need to rephrase the saying. It is becoming apparent that humanity is going to be caught between the sea and a hot place.

The Sea

Most of us are aware of the danger of sea-level rise over the near-term. Currently some 270 million people live on land that is less than 2m above sea level. By 2100 that number is expected to exceed 400 million. Although, by then, most of those 400 million will have had to move because of sea-level rise. The NASA Earth Observatory predicts a rise of between 0.6m – 1.1m by the end of the 21st century.

Of the top 20 cities (by population) at risk of severe sea-level impact, 15 of them are in Asian countries. One of those nations, Indonesia, is already taking steps to shift its coastal capital of Jakarta (with the dubious distinction of being labelled the ‘fastest sinking city in the world’) to a new site – some 2,000 km NE of Jakarta to Nusantara in Borneo, where the location is hillier than the alluvial plain on which Jakarta sits.

Another country at severe risk of sea-level rise is the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. The flattest country on Earth, the country has an average elevation of just 1m above sea level. A sea-level rise of just 45cm would see the nation lose 77% of its land area.

Sea-level rise is one half of the dire situation.

The Hot Place

Two years ago a group of scientists from China, USA, UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Uruguay published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal calling attention to a vastly increased land area that would be too hot for human inhabitation by 2070.1

Presently humans live in a climatic envelope where the Mean Average Temperature (MAT) is around 11o C to 15o C with a small number living in a MAT of around 26o C.

Very few, if any, humans live in an area with a MAT of 29o C or greater. This is hardly significant at present as only 0.8% of the Earth’s land surface experiences such conditions, concentrated mostly in the Sahara.

However, according to this research, by 2070 the area experiencing a MAT of 29o C or greater is projected to be 19% of the Earth’s surface. That is twenty-four times as much land area as now! That is massive!

Most at risk will be nations in central Africa, parts of the Indian sub-continent, SE Asia. Northern areas of Australia, and much of the Amazon basin.

How many people will this affect? Huge numbers. Around 350 billion, or one-third of the projected global population.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that currently there are 103 million forcibly displaced people in the world, a figure that has risen significantly in the past decade.2

The world has trouble coping with this number now. How will the world cope when this number is increased by a factor of 10 or more?


1. Xu, Kohler, Lenton, Svenning, & Scheffer, Future of the Human Climate Niche, PNAS May26, 2020, Vol 117, no. 21

2. Refugee Data Finder on UNHCR website accessed 2 November 2022.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Giving Away Your Gift

Pablo Picasso is reputed to have given us the saying: ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.’

However, this appears to be a misattribution. The real source of the quote seems to be from an American psychiatrist and host of a radio show offering counselling to callers. In 1993 David Viscott published the book Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A book of meditations. In that book Viscott included this three-part offering:

‘The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.’1

Viscott’s advice is germane in its succinctness. After 30 years it is perhaps even more so, as it could be argued that we are living in more difficult times now than in 1993.

I wonder what sort of gift people are discovering, and where they are finding it? Are the gifts we discover appropriate and meaningful?

How many of us search for our gift outside of ourselves, as if we were looking for a gift to buy for a friend in a store? We go into the store with no real sense of the person we are wanting to give a gift to; we just want to buy a gift, almost any gift will do. We buy the gift to satisfy ourselves rather than thinking about the recipient of the gift.

Then there are those of us who wait until the last minute and join the rush, such as at Christmas time with hundreds of others, to heedlessly buy anything simply so that we have something to wrap in gift paper to pass on.

Or, are we the gift-giver who looks for the latest gadget because it has been hyped up on television by some celebrity or other. We purchase it because it is new, because it is the latest thing, or because it shows that we are “up with the fashion.”

Maybe we are none of these. Maybe we are one of those rare people who create our own gift, Maybe we are aware of the talents we have been gifted with. Maybe we explore those talents and work to develop them (as Viscott recommends) so that we become proficient and skilled. Then perhaps, we think about who we intend the gift for, and we design a gift, utilising our talents, specifically for the person we wish to give the gift to.

Undoubtedly, if we are one of those in the last of these metaphorical scenarios then the gift is likely to be greatly appreciated and is likely to be of lasting quality.

These scenarios are, of course, all metaphorical. How many of us discover our gift in life? Then, how many of us work to develop that gift? Ultimately, how many of us give that gift away?

Viscott’s gift bears remarkable resemblance to Bill Plotkin’s concept of a person’s unique ecological niche (which he also refers to as one’s personal soul.) Discovering our eco-niche is, according to Plotkin, ‘what provides us with our ultimate personal meaning, our truest identity.’2

For more than four decades Plotkin has possibly done more than any other psychologist or psychiatrist to help people discover their eco-niche. He would agree with Viscott that ‘the work of life is to develop it.’ This work is crucial. One does not just discover one’s gift and then give it away. One must work with it, refine it, and explore it fully before it can be given away in the most beneficial manner possible.

Furthermore, our gift is not found outside of ourselves (in a store,) nor can it be rushed into (like the last-minute Christmas shopper.) Certainly, our gift (eco-niche) is not the latest thing, it is not something we purchase simply because it is fashionable.

Our true gift is that of the fourth scenario above. Once we discover it, we learn to craft it, and we learn how to use it so that it is of benefit to those around us, including the more-than-human species.

In these difficult times it is our personal gift (our unique ecological niche) that we must discover and develop, so that true Adults and true Elders can emerge.3

What gift are we developing?


1. Note that Viscott reverses the order of purpose and meaning. This is significant; meaning follows purpose. This is the same order that Plotkin (see later in the main text) ascribes. Note also that Viscott includes the vital second step (development of one’s gift) which has been left out of the supposed-Picasso quotation.

2. Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries, New World Library, Novato, California, 2021.

3. Bill Plotkin writes that, ‘…contemporary societies have very few real elders – plenty of “olders” but not many people of wisdom capable of effectively caring for the greater Earth community. However, a much more devastating and incisive cultural critique is to observe that the modern world has very few true adults – and that this is precisely the root cause of our current crises.’ Op. cit., p 11