‘Love Life’ is Bella’s Agony Aunt column by Jamie Heckert… because the personal is political and the ‘state we’re in’ is complicated.

Freedom, in Scotland and elsewhere, isn’t something that is given by governments or other authorities. It’s something that’s practiced. And not just in social movements or halls of power. It’s part of everyday life.
Contact Jamie – our Love Life Editor at: bellaslovelife@aktivix.org

Hey – I didn’t know you wrote for Bella C. I’ve only posted here once (Real World Avatar) and don’t find much time to scrutinise blogs. However, I had to ask you for your thoughts on why we (i.e. the so-called civilised) do not understand that everything comes from nature. We are so smart. We can cure diseases and send probes into outer space yet the ruling culture is based around planet-trashing perpetual consumption (to provide economic growth, you understand!)

OK, not the best question but I’d appreciate your thoughts! What the hell is wrong with us?

All the best for 2012 Jamie

Mandy x

Dear Mandy,

Thanks for writing in with such a great question! What is wrong with us?

There’s a yoga teaching I love: before trying to solve a problem, question the validity of the problem. Or, in other words, what if there is nothing wrong with us?

The acceptance that everything comes from nature can take a long time to develop. The idea of us being ‘smart’ can be part of what gets in the way of that acceptance, that awareness. We are encouraged to believe that we are so important, both as ego-centred individuals and as humans in anthropocentric cultures. The opposite idea of us being ‘wrong’ is basically the same; it, too, makes us overly important.

I’m not convinced we are capable of trashing the planet. We’re not that powerful. The Earth is a pretty robust system. Sure, human actions (including transfering carbon from the crust to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels) is changing the dynamics of the system of which we are a part. Learning to live as part of the earth rather than considering the Earth to be merely resources for our use is something of learning process. I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion that this is less about being smart and more about falling in love with the Earth.

So while we humans are not the centre of the universe, like everything else, our actions have consequences. When our actions are based on self-centredness, they cause pain both for ourselves and others. And when they come from a loving awareness of being part of nature, part of life, the effects are very different. Don’t take my word for it. Experiment. Pay attention to the authority of your own experience. I know for me, just having a self-centred thought is painful. I can feel my body tighten, my heart and mind close. And when I focus on how I can be of service to others, to life itself, without doing it for reward or reputation but simply because I listen to my conscience, there is a tremendous sense of spaciousness. Now, learning to discriminate between the ego and the conscience, the mind and the heart, can be a life long process that requires a great deal of devoted practice. Or it can happen in an instant.

Why should we bother if there’s nothing wrong with us?

Why does the seed grow into a flower if there’s nothing wrong with the seed? So many of us learn to believe the reason for change that there is something wrong with us as we are. We’ve learned to judge ourselves and, by extension, to judge others. But what if change is simply the nature of being? What if being always means becoming? Then, of course we will change. Life is always changing.

What happens if we love ourselves just as we are? What if we love life, just as it is? (These aren’t rhetorical questions. They are invitations to experiment. What happens?)

In my experience, this is another way of releasing that ego-centrism that causes so much pain. The idea that something needs to change is the source of the ecological devastation that triggered the pain I sense in your letter, Mandy. Our lives aren’t good enough, we learn to believe, so we need more. More money, more stuff, more sex, more chocolate, more success, more attention, or even more sensitivity, more intelligence, more revolutionaries… . But if our lives are good enough, if life is beautiful, we might realise we don’t need nearly so much as we think we do.

Pain is simply one form of feedback that helps change happen, if we accept it. There is nothing wrong with us. Still, pain is an invitation to change, to notice the effects of self-centredness and to let go of it again and again and again. Feedback isn’t always painful. We also get little messages from our conscience, little prompts to act. I suspect that many of us are getting these little prompts to act, to live our lives differently, and we’re ignoring them. I know I do! Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid of making a mistake, so I avoid the challenge life offers me. Sometimes it’s because I’ve become attached to a certain idea of who I am and the prompt doesn’t fit with that image.

And if I label myself or others ‘wrong’ for any of this, well, that’s another image I become attached to instead of paying attention to the reality of experience.

So my advice, Mandy, is to trust that nature, life itself, is working just fine and that we humans are simply part of that process. And when you, or I or anyone hears a call from life to act, may we find it in ourselves to accept.

Love,
Jamie

Read previous in the LOVE LIFE series here.