Just a reminder that we also have an audio version of Down the Forest Path, with weekly podcast episodes (though I may miss out a week here and there, like last week due to another death in the family). It’s been interesting to try out this medium, and although I’m much more comfortable writing than speaking, I feel that this is good for me, as a Druid in honouring an ancient oral tradition. So, every month there is one free podcast available, but to listen to all you will need to subscribe. Subscription lasts for an entire year from signing, and you will also have access to all of my back catalogue items such as the audio version of my book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, guided meditation, talks and presentations, music and more.
We need to change the way we communicate. Right now. Here in the UK, everyone is reacting to other people’s reactions, in an insane run of events that has led to unprecedented turmoil and upset. People aren’t talking to each other. Germany refuses to talk to the UK parliament until they begin the leave negotiations. Labour ministers refuse to talk to their leader about the best way forward. The Prime Minister is resigning, leaving the talking to whoever takes up the difficult role. Friends are attacking and “unfriending” each other all over social media. This sort of behaviour is based in punishment: an eye for an eye. We have been hurt, we will hurt in response. We are emotional creatures.With the lines of communication closed, we are stuck here in limbo, everyone reacting instead of acting with intention. Reactive behaviour is, for the most part, usually not the best behaviour.
Emotional responsibility is something that is seriously lacking in our society. In fact, any responsibility is met with apprehension, especially personal responsibility. Far too many are eager to find power under the guise of responsibility for others, but when it comes to perhaps changing their own behaviour they will never even consider it. It’s everyone else’s fault, people are stupid, people are ignorant. We will not even talk about changing our own behaviour, lest we admit to something that needs improvement. Sure, we’ll criticise the hell out of others, for don’t we see that every day in the media, from television entertainment shows to the PM’s questions every Wednesday lunchtime? And yet, where is the real communication?
If we are emotionally responsible, we won’t simply unfriend someone on Facebook because they didn’t vote the same way we did. So what if a friend voted for Leave? So what if a Remainer said something stupid in response? They are reacting. We can stop, see their pain, see their fear, try to see why they are reacting in such a way. In that stopping, in that attempt to understand, there is compassion. And where there is compassion, hopefully the lines of communication can reopen, and respectful behaviour ensue. Hopefully then, we are acting with intention, not in reaction.
Sometimes it just isn’t possible, and I understand that. Sometimes someone hurts us so bad, has just been so horrid that we will simply not put ourselves in that position ever again. This is something that has usually happened over a longer period of time, where the behaviour has been repeated again and again. We give them a second chance. And maybe a third. And then, if there is no value, if there is no respect, if there is no honour then we can walk away, in peace. And wishing them peace. But if walking away in anger, without first trying to establish the lines of communication: if this is the first and only thing we do, then there is very little chance of reconciliation, of compassion, of communication. Maybe we just have to accept that humans will be humans, that they will do and say stupid things, that they have opinions, both good and bad, and we will also have ours, good and bad, stupid and brilliant. But if we stop talking to them, we lose all chance of hope for a future together.
There is so much divisiveness right now, in this so-called United Kingdom. There has been blood shed, a life lost, and more death threats to others because of fear, because of lack of communication, because of ignorance, because of poor communication, because of misinformation and manipulation. There is a growing blatant and overt racism and prejudice, fuelled by ignorance, by fear. If we are talking to each other, then maybe this can be overcome. Where we are no longer talking, there is no hope for change.
We need to change the way we communicate. Right now.
Going through my old gwers (small course books) from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ online correspondence course that I did many years ago, I found a section of a few gwers that made me smile, as it resonated with me then and still does, on so many levels and is also a major part of the way that I live my life. It focuses on the here and now, on the beauty and wonder of the present moment, and how important the present moment is. Leaving the past to the past, and the future to the future, these gwers really highlighted the importance of focus on the here and now. I did this through incorporating elements of Zen Buddhism into my life (see my first book, Zen Druidry) which has helped me to fully actualise the present moment, to not take it for granted and to learn to simply be, wherever I am and whatever I am doing.
Being comfortable in the present is key to finding lasting happiness. Knowing that the past exists, but that it serves only as a guide to the present moment helps us to release many things that can have a negative effect on the present moment, such as anger, grief, fear or hate. Knowing that the future exists only as a flexible plan helps us to not get too stuck in our ways and habits, and can also alleviate feelings such as fear. Our focus should always been on the now, to live life fully.
But what if the “now” isn’t all that great? What if in the “now” we are stuck outside in the pouring rain without an umbrella or coat, waiting for a bus that never turns up? Yep – that’s all part of it. Buddhism teaches in the first noble truth that all beings suffer. You can’t escape it. That might sound like one helluva downer, but the upside is that the other noble truths help us to alleviate that suffering. One of the ways to do so is the fully be in your self, in your body and mind (there is no separation) and in doing so, the suffering eases. That doesn’t mean you won’t get soaked to your knickers, but at least you spent the time feeling the rain upon your body, smelled the earth responding to the rain and smiled to your own heart rather than get angry at the bus driver, or grumpy about the wetness, wondering why this sort of thing always happens to you.
For some people who are living in extreme conditions, say in the middle of a war zone for instance, the above may sound trite. However, Vietnemese monk Thich Nhat Hanh experienced the horrors of war first hand and learned how to be in the present moment, to help alleviate the suffering. (See the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh .) When we are in the present moment we will know how to respond to any situation better than if we were responding from the past or future. Our clarity sharpens and we respond in a manner that is wholly and utterly relevant to the situation at hand rather than drudging up issues from the past or worries about the future.
I have had to deal with uncomfortable situations and difficult people. Being in the present helped me to not drudge up the past to project it onto a particular situation in negative ways, but to enable me to deal with the issues as they are, up front without any extra baggage. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we enjoy dealing with this sort of stuff, but we can get through it with a lighter heart, finding our peace more quickly and able to spread that out to the world. It helps you see reality, as it really is. Eventually you may find that your inner peace becomes less and less disturbed, no matter what life throws at you, and that peace and calm will radiate out into the world in beautiful and positive ways.
May you enjoy the present moment for all that it is. Remember the old saying, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”.