The natural state of being with myself, others and everything else, the way I am when circumstances allow, is like being plugged into the current of life.
I’m writing this from a glorious little dwelling that looks like a tin can with a thick layer of grass over the roof and wooden cladding, looking out through glass walls onto Loch Long, Scotland, with the mountains behind it showing all of their contours in the amazingly unexpected sharp sunshine. The whole landscape seems raw and glowing and surprised. Or maybe that’s just me.
I’m here for a weekend of research inquiry into human nature and ecology, using movement and somatic practices, journaling, drawing/painting and sculpting with clay. There’s also a piano here, making me feel like a kid in a sweetshop. It’s very easy here when the sun is out, wandering down to the loch amongst the mossy trees, to come to the conclusion that human nature, like nature itself, is obviously good and exceptionally beautiful.
Life looks different when there are obligations to be met and its freezing, dull or rainy — or all three. It looks different when you’re under attack and your humanity is being denied.
I talk a lot about reclaiming a natural state of power and joy. It doesn’t mean I am in denial about the twisted, violent and abusive way in which people tend to relate to themselves, others, and the thing we call the environment. The environment we see as something separate from us, although any indigenous person would find this to be a perversion of the most stupid kind — something akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
My experience tells me however that the natural state of being with myself, others and everything else, the way I am when circumstances allow, is like being plugged into the current of life. It sounds abstract but is in fact the most concrete thing there is: it’s what makes the plants grow and the planets turn. Being plugged in feels powerful — it’s not my power to own, but power comes through, and I no longer feel that miserable sense of isolation or everything being out of my control. Of course, everything remains out of my control: I still can’t make the plants grow or the planets turn, but I don’t feel this is as a problem because I am included in the growing, and indeed in the dying. This sense of inclusion precludes hurting yourself, or anyone or anything else. That just makes no sense. In this sense a human who is also attuned to being nature, being life force, is naturally ‘good’, not in order to live up to a moral code but just because it makes no sense to hurt or block or impede yourself.
Starting from my experience I’ve found a lot of ancient spiritual technology that facilitates this natural state. Facilitation is needed because humans have some extra apparatus allowing them to both create technological wonders and keep large complex societies going, and also to drive themselves into states of frantic delusion. So we can’t just sit back and relax and expect our attention to drift automatically to the life force, the natural state.
In the same way that getting into a proper meditation position is, I think, half the work of the meditation done already, being in a place made of natural materials with great attention to detail, to being in harmony with the elements and basic human needs, starts to bring a sense of wellbeing already from the second you get up in the morning. This takes a lot of work and a lot of technological kind of thought, designing things that don’t live by themselves, that aren’t nature, but an expression of human needs. We’re the force of nature, plus the extra capacities that enable us to structure things.
What’s needed now quite urgently I think is to think about the conditions people need in order to act from a sense that it’s a good thing to be alive, and that power is available. It means addressing inequalities and redesigning pretty much everything, far beyond just the homes we live in. Human beings can do it. But it’s not possible without power. Luckily the power is available, it’s beating our hearts and making us breathe. That’s what human nature is, the bottom line, and concentrating on just that feels good, and compassionate. Try a bit of meditation and making free movement and sounds every day, just five minutes. Then let’s think of some ideas.
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