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Archive for August, 2010

(Watermelon Monster from the Buson YŌkai Emaki-1754)

We see nature around us, and we see also that man enters into his physical existence through the forces of this same nature. We know through our study of Spiritual Science that we do not rightly regard nature if we only pay attention to its external physical features. We know that divine forces permeate it and we only become aware of our origin from nature in the true sense of the word when we perceive this divine element that weaves and works within it. -Rudolf Steiner

I was camping this weekend, wading around in these big rock bowls carved out by the flowing water. If I stood in the same place long enough little tiny fish came over and nibbled on my skin (a little disturbing, but cute). My partner pointed out the St. John’s Wort growing by the waters edge. I got a little sunburnt on my pasty neck. When the sun went down a bat flew by my ear and I heard strange rustlings in the grass. It was super fun.

I’ve had to quit drinking alcohol. And quit smoking cigarettes. And, since “the Great Liver Cleanse” of summer 2010 I can’t even drink a proper cup of coffee anymore. I find myself searching for the next best mood mender, or whatever you want to call it. It apparently needs to be something that doesn’t harm me or make me irritable. I’ve decided that my next vice will be to become obsessed with finding God.

No, no…that will never do! says the guru in my head. One who is obsessed will never reach enlightenment! You must touch God lightly, for she is like a watermelon seed–once you squeeze…squirt, gone!

This afternoon I went to my favorite Rosen bodywork practitioner. I’ve told her about my quest to find God and to become like Jesus. (She does Vipassana meditation. I don’t know exactly what that is, but it sounds serious). I told her I’d like her to help me release the anger that’s trapped inside my body. I told her my latest favorite quote from the Brahma Kumaris anger management handout: How can there be peace on earth, if the hearts of men are like volcanoes? (This is one of those instances where the word man=humanity, in case you wondered if women could have volcanic hearts as well. There is a well known study–ok it’s an article I found online–that says that girls are getting more and more aggressive. My favorite quote: “And it spoke to me about how this new American girl is wrestling with the same issues the American boy has been.” Gosh! What an insight! Amazing. I wonder if they might even someday find that girls from other countries experience similar things as boys from their same countries too? The world is wild and strange.)

Anyway, I said to my Rosen practitioner “how can there be peace on earth, if the hearts of man are like volcanoes?”

“That is why there will never be peace on earth,” she answered quickly with a wry, Vipassanic smile. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t joking.

There is peace in nature though. I know that animals can be vicious (I’m glad those crazy fishes didn’t have teeth!). That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about balance. I feel top heavy. My head is way bigger than my body and I have to walk really fast to keep up with it, so that gravity doesn’t make it smash to the ground.

I will practice slowing down. I will practice slowing down. I will practice slowing down.

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.-Einstein

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(flowering peyote cactus–it even looks magick!)

What do you think of when you hear the word magic? There are so many connotations…guy with a hat and a rabbit, black clad ladies dancing around a bubbling cauldron, N’ Awlins style Voodoo, pentacles and black candles, Merlin and the Sword of King Arthur, a rabbit’s foot dangling from the rearview, horoscopes, the sign of the cross–belly button, forehead, shoulder, shoulder–to honor Christ or to dispel the demons, the list could go on and on. Mostly though, it falls into two categories and most folks probably steer one way or the other–magic is real, or magic is a trick.

(cover of Natural Magick by John Baptiste Porta-1535-note the picture of the author. Try to not note the picture of the human with what appears to be a naturally magickal udder. Not sure what that’s all about.)

Etymologically speaking, the word magic comes from Greek magos–one of the learned and priestly class, or Old French magique–art of influencing events or producing marvels, or Latin magice–sorcerer, or even Persian magush–to be able, to have power. (I just read in The Everything Wicca and Witchcraft Book by Skye Alexander that the word magick is used to differentiate between stage magic and real magick. I had to go back and change the title of this post after I read that.)

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently and I mentioned that we in the United States don’t seem to have a lot of time honored rituals, and that the ones we do have have sort of migrated into consumerism extravaganzas. (By ritual I mean a action or set of actions that are symbolic. These actions have religious, spiritual, environmental, or other meanings to the actor.) It seems to be true that once my ancestors got added to the melting pot, our culture changed into something new. Although my scope is rather limited being from just one family, it doesn’t appear to me that many families are still practicing ancient rituals that have been handed down over time. I guess the Catholics still do it, but I was never really drawn to that particular religion. Maybe the Peyotism? That could be interesting…

Driving home from a camping trip yesterday, I saw the sign for Saginaw. I grew up in a Saginaw, 2500 miles from here. I’ve wondered if the name occurs here too because the government “relocated” the Ojibwe people to Oregon and the name came with them. Then was thinking about how much of that culture/ritual/history was forcibly lost in the genocide and re-education of this land’s indigenous people. How many have been able to retain their spiritual beliefs? Or relearn them generations later?

The above mentioned book (Everything Witchcraft and Wicca) speaks about the many, many pagan peoples of the past, who had deep and wide spiritual beliefs about the world around them: Indians, Irish, Greeks, Babylonians, Celtics, Mayans, Persians, Scandinavians, Australians, Slavonics, Chinese, Europeans, on and on the list goes from every corner of the earth.

I do know that some cultures have still retained their rituals and folk beliefs. I have vague references in my nog about shamanism in South America. I think that the Irish and the Celts have a deep and old understanding about fairies and the like. I know that there are still some Maya people who continue keeping track of the count of the days. I’ve heard tell about a beautiful Japanese tea ceremony. I read a book recently (God’s Middle Finger by Richard Grant) in which the author, a travel writer, tells about seeing “hunch back oil” for sale on the streets of the Sierra Madre (hunch backs are good luck, but how do you get their “oil?”).

When I think about magick, I think about bringing consciousness to the fact that the world around us is teeming with energy. If we honor the world, the earth, and the forces that shape the world, through ritual or other means, we can gain a richer existence here. Casting a circle, calling on the elements and the four directions, picking an herb and wearing it in a pouch–all of these actions require one to slow down and to notice the world around her. And once she has become awakened to the world, she’ll never be the same again.

(Ojibwe Cultural Foundation-painting by Plismo)

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It’s fig season. Outside my window the sunlight is filtering down through the lobes and globes of golden green of the lovely fig tree (Ficus carica) that grows by the driveway.

Oh, the fig. Dreamy. I was interested to find as I was writing my blog yesterday that the Bodhi Tree that the Buddha sat under while reaching enlightenment is, actually, a Ficus tree. With that realization, and the fact that my own Ficus is bursting with lovin’ goodness, I thought I’d like to do a posting on the glorious, evocative, mysterious and mythological fig. Well, the fig itself isn’t mythological, it really grows–like I said there’s one in my yard–but it does inspire lots of myths, some of which I will illuminate today. Here goes:

There are about 850 varieties of the Ficus, generally referred to as figs. Many people actually have the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) in their homes, as it makes a lovely mini-tree house plant. Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs states that such a houseplant is protective and brings good luck, restful sleep, and plentiful food (depending on which room you keep it in.)

This makes perfect sense, considering that the ancient Greeks believed that eating figs would make one strong and glorious in battle. King Mithridates (63 BCE) pronounced that figs were a great health tonic. This particular king was oft in danger of being killed by his many enemies and so worked methodically at finding antidotes to poison using prisoners as his experimentees. One of his antidotes, to which poison I’m not certain, was two walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue pounded together with a pinch of salt. (Sounds delicious.)

The  Spartans dined on figs to keep up their strength and improve form in battle and it is said that the fig was considered to be quite divine by Dionysus, the joyful hedonist.

The Greeks also started an unfortunate connection with the fig as well, however. “Giving someone the fig,” a hand gesture in which you make a fist with your thumb tip protruding between your index and middle finger, is an ancient and very obscene motion. The unfortunate connection with the fig is that when the fruit of such a tree is split in half it appears, to some, to resemble female genitalia, as does the “obscene” fist with protruding thumb gesture. The word syncophant comes from a Greek word meaning “one who shows the fig” i.e. one who makes the vulgar (female) gesture..I smell a whiff of patriarchy….

The glorious fig is mentioned in many religious texts. Adam and Eve used the leaves of a fig to cover themselves after they ate the forbidden fruit. Also, another biblical quote “each man under his own vine and fig tree,” (1 Kings 4:25) is meant to show peace, wealth and happiness of humankind. (There are other multiple fig mentions in the Bible as well.)

A fig tree (Ficus benghalensis) is also the National Tree of India. Ficus religiosa is considered to be the Ashvastha, the world tree of Hinduism. As well, the Rigvedic Sarasvati River was said to have sprung forth from between the roots of a fig tree. Interestingly enough, the word sarasvati refers to a female keeper of the waters. The Sarasvati River is praised as being the “best mother, best river, best goddess” (from Wikipedia)

The oldest living plant of known planting date is a Ficus religiosa tree known as the Sri Maha Bodhi planted in the temple at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka by King Tissa in 288 BC. It is one of the two sacred trees of Islam, and there is a sura in Quran named “The Fig.”

“The Quran mentioned figs and then the Prophet Muhammad [s] stated, “If I had to mention a fruit that descended from paradise, I would say this is it because the paradisiacal fruits do not have pits…eat from these fruits for they prevent hemorrhoids, prevent piles and help gout. (from Wikipedia)

The Aztecs made paper, called “amatl”, from the inner white bark of both the fig tree, on which they recorded their codices.

Because the paper was used in religious ceremonies, it was banned by the Catholic Church during the colonial era, but remnants of the old religious traditions have survived in parts of rural Mexico where fig bark paper, cut into shapes of crops, is planted along with the seeds as an offerring to ensure good harvest.

Mexican “witches” still use the paper for sorcery, making paper dolls as a love object or a hated enemy. (This info I got here al0ng with some really great info on medicinal value of figs.)

So, anyway. That’s just a tiny bit of the information I’ve found today and now I’m getting a backache. I think I’ll go outside and gather some sunlight, love, and wonderfruit…

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Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa)

Recap of a past posting in the form of a question: If potential violence is around me but I choose to not collapse the potential into reality (i.e. choose not to be conscious of it), would I be injured anyway? (This after the realization that if there isn’t pair of ears and ear innards, a sound is just a vibration…like everything else. Without a conscious observer (ears) to collapse a violent vibration, would it just wiggle on by?)

I’ve been thinking about this problem quite a lot lately, and I thought that a good way to view it would be through the eyes of folks who have apparently learned how to master violence on the physical plane–>Jesus and Buddha.

You’ve all seen the bracelets: WWJD? In a world full of crazy, Jesus is our rock. We’ve heard how he helped poor, crazy Mary-the-Fallen-Cat-Lady exorcise her seven demons (what’s that? Mary Magdelene was a business woman who financed Christ after her exorcism? and she wasn’t really a prostitute? Hm. I smell a whiff of patriarchy here…)

Anyway, if anybody could avoid violence in this world by thinking positively, it would be Jesus, right? Well, read the title of this post. Jesus was kidnapped by political criminals and murdered. He was resurrected, so it all worked out in the end, but still. I suppose there is the possibility that he did it all for humanity, and that he could have made a different choice…he “took one for the team,” so to speak.

So then there is Buddha. I twiddled around a little bit and discovered that the Buddha actually had a bodyguard after one of his followers got beaten on a mountain path. Ok, it was really a “personal assistant” but really the same sort of idea. Furthermore, I read this Buddha quote in the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker:

People should learn to see and so avoid all danger. Just as a wise man keeps away from mad dogs, so one should not make friends with evil men.

There it is. Buddha says that you should be aware of (conscious of) dangerous things in the world, so that you can avoid them.

Sigh. I’m not convinced. I still dunno what to think about it…

Guess I’ll have to find a Bodhi Tree of my own.

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Cucerbite (squash)-Nature: cold and humid in the second degree. Optimum: those that are fresh and green. Usefulness: they quench the thirst. Dangers: they constitute a swift laxative. Neutralization of dangers: with salt water and mustard. Effects: a moderate and cold nourishment. Good for choleric temperaments. (circa 1390)

The Greek word chole means bile. Bile comes from the Latin word bilis, fluid secreted by the liver…aka one of the famous humors of the Middle Ages medical world. Bilious people are fiery, red, passionate, bull headed, magnanimous, constant, energetic, blah, blah…google choleric temperament and all sorts of things come up. Choleric people are the ones who get things done. They crack the whips, sign the checks, and make the rules.

Really though…and I’m talking real world here now…choleric people can be sort of…well, assholish. Of all the temperaments, choleric people are the ones most likely to be violent. And that’s no fun, is it?

In the book A new Earth, Eckhart Tolle says that every person has something he calls a “pain body.” He says that over time people collect pain–grievances, regrets, guilt, anger, sadness–that accumulates in our energy field. From the time we are little babies until this present moment, when we experience something painful but choose, for whatever reason, to not deal with it in the moment, we then collect it up and use it later on to make ourselves and other people miserable.

So. I was at my Brahma Kumaris meditation class last night and we were talking about karma. I was thinking about my microseries on violence and about how people who do mean/bad/violent things (i.e. living in their past experiences) continue to create more and more vikarma (negative karma) for themselves. Those naughty violent people, I thought. Then, one of the teachers said that we can create negative karma just by rolling our eyes.

Hey! said my affronted ego, That’s not fair! What are we supposed to be? Jesus? I voiced the question aloud: Does that mean we’re supposed to not feel irritated with other annoying people?

Answer: No, we can’t help feeling irritated with other people when they bother us. (I’ve been reading a great book called Why Good People Do Bad Things by James Hollis which talks about repression as being a very unhelpful thing…more on that later). What we can do (instead of repressing our feelings) is to practice non-attached observance of our irritation. “Wow! That person who crossed the street in front of my oncoming car really got me feeling upset! I wonder what lesson there is in this for me?” That type of thing. That way, you don’t have to react to their irritatingness. You can just feel it, let it go, and BURN UP SOME VIKARMA!

When you act calm and peaceful, people begin to think that you are calm and peaceful. That has a three-fold benefit: 1. They think you’re cool, and 2. They might see how calm and peaceful you are and try to learn the detached observation too, and 3. You might actually start to become calm and peaceful someday.

If that doesn’t work, just eat some cucumbers.

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