Friday, 21 January 2011

I Make, Therefore I Am

I worry about the society we find ourselves in today. Many people have become spectators of life rather than participants and as a result, find themselves disconnected and struggling to find a purpose.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution there are, in my opinion, things that can be done to provide us once more with a sense of being, doing, contributing and probably most importantly, with that sense of purpose while we are here and knowledge of leaving our mark for when we’re not; something that speaks of our existence and identity.

Today the media is full to bursting, of programmes and articles dedicated to the tangible achievements of the past, where experts extol the virtues of craftsmen and craftsmanship. They talk about the detail, the design, the skill, the workmanship and the fact that many of these items are still in working use, literally hundreds of years later.

We are fully aware of the significance and importance of those exertions, which I repeat; we celebrate on a regular basis. However, we have forgotten that manual occupation is still one of the best ways to satisfy this primeval need and there is nothing wrong in going to bed tired, maybe even aching a little, knowing that the day has been used to its full advantage and there is something to show at the end of it. We have become obsessed with jumping the gun, to get to the destination without going on the journey, let alone enjoying it.

We have become obsessed with the idea that physical struggle is wrong and bad, so much so that we are desperately trying to eliminate it (in the western world at least) to our cost. What we need to realise is that a certain amount of physical exertion, struggle even, is necessary in every human life. When that is not present an emotional as well as a physical vacuum is created, which as we all know, must be filled.

Are our lives any ‘easier’ today?  I doubt it. We’ve simply replaced physical struggle with mental anxiety. I would argue that a lot of that anxiety occurs because we are not satisfying that innate need to be manually and creatively occupied. Art, Craft and Manual Production satisfy that need on every level.

Using our hands and indeed all our faculties to create things of beauty, use or both, is of immense value. Using the raw materials we find around us, where a battle of wills ensues between maker and material, grappling and tussling with that material, until a truce – a compromise and an understanding is achieved and something beautiful emerges. It is this struggle that helps define us as human beings and we need this affirmation, pretty much on a daily basis, to keep us sane and healthy.
Gillian Montegrande, is founder of Made by Hands of Britain which is dedicated to showcasing the heritage, traditions and contemporary interpretations of British craftsmanship. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

We must not be bystanders!

We face the biggest crisis in human history. It is not the financial crisis. It is our failure to live within the limits of mother Earth and in harmony with each other that will lead to catastrophe. Don’t be fooled by politicians endowed with excessive self-confidence. We cannot depend on governments to do what needs to be done. They do not focus on the most important issues or grasp the radical solutions that are needed. Nor do they offer the bold, inspiring leadership required for a great transition.
There are 6.7bn of us throughout the world. We have immense power if we use it wisely. We have to campaign and educate politicians and demand that they do what is needed. We will not find the answers by listening to combative politicians or a media that keeps us entertained with hot air, transfixed by consumerism and novelty, yet feeling powerless. We need to inform ourselves about the abundant wise thinking and exciting possibilities for a great transformation. Some of the urgent changes can be brought about by individuals and communities. But the major part of it requires action by governments at every level – from parish to United Nations. We need inclusive and fully representative democracy, not dictatorship by a party or coalition that gets the most seats in Parliament. 
Our role must be to campaign, lobby, demonstrate and insist.
There is a growing consensus about what has to be done. It is not only a matter of transforming the global economy so that its purpose is to bring greater well-being to everyone. We need to end the obsession with growth, privatisation, unlimited globalisation and free trade. We also need to transform the costly and unstable debt money system and unsustainable, unjust and unnecessarily complex taxation. Government must accept the need for prosperity without growth. It must protect citizens from the abuse of power by large corporations. We have to demand these changes. To do so we must be well-informed.
Bruce Nixon is author of A Better World is Possible – what needs to be done and how we can make it happen, available free on his website It provides full information and ways forward on all these issues.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


As the sun returns it reaches like a bridge across the divide between Heaven and Earth to stir the cold body of the feminine back into life. This return of the king is essential because it is the masculine, the active principle, that must kick-start the inertia for change.  But there is new purpose here too, for the king is returning from descent.
When we descend into the underworld, as we do every winter, it is our dark and wounded feminine, our feeling self, that we find there. All those unwanted feelings hung upon the hooks like old coats, many in child sizes.
Our masculine selves, the active principle within us that thinks and does, now knows about this hidden feminine, having embodied her suffering. This knowledge is transformative because he now rallies to her defence. This is why we make New Years resolutions because we return with a strong sense that something must be done to create change.
For the returning sun to awaken the seed it must first break through the cold crust of the earth. This breaking through, this release of power, is also required of us to cross this bridge. But power resides in the house of anger and of all the feelings this is probably the most repressed in our culture.
But our anger is our essential and elemental fire. It is our power to say No! Stop! Enough! Without it, we are defenceless. With it, we are empowered. How we use it is up to us. This power is the suns power and now we reclaim it from the shadow just as the sun is reclaimed from the underworld.  This is the primal push of the masculine towards life made all the more urgent by the lessons learnt in descent.  You will not do that to me again!  I am worth more than that!  I will break free!  So the horse kicks open the stable door and runs.  The dog rips off his muzzle and barks. The eagle breaks out of his cage and soars.
Ian Siddons Heginworth is an environmental arts therapist, founder of the Devon-based Wild Things community programme and author of Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life, Spirit’s Rest Books.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Cycles of Change in Nature

On the surface, life appears to be ever-changing. Everything is continually being transformed by the interaction between internal forces inscribed in the blueprint of nature's design, and external forces, like sunlight, wind, rain and innumerable environmental influences.
The same blade of grass is not the same from one moment to the next. The process of erosion is always at work, causing the fading of one substance into another. The grass and rocks melt into the earth, only to re-emerge as perhaps the fibres of trees and flowers. Time rules the outer layer of life. The outer material level is subject to the inexorable law which determines the natural span of life of everything in creation.
However, every change is governed by the laws of nature. The cycles of change in Nature are the means by which Nature evolves and progresses. Every change at the surface level is determined by specific laws of Nature operating at a deeper level.
Nature is perfectly organised. Intelligence is evident in every shape, form, line color and texture. Not only does everything in Nature harmonise with everything else, but every structure is harmonious in itself. It is a manifest expression of the propagation of unmanifest impulses of intelligence creating specific forms with precise internal relationships. The order that is evident at the surface of Nature resonates with an unmanifest source of order deep inside us and it is this resonance which gives rise to the perception of beauty.

Barbara Briggs is a writer, poet, teacher of Transcendental Meditation and author of The Contribution of Maharishi's Vedic Science to Complete Fulfilment in Life. This excerpt is from Vision Into Infinity, her first book, which is out of print but will hopefully be reprinted soon. Email Barbara

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Heroes Journey

All good stories come in three parts: beginning, middle and end or in the case of the Heroes Journey or monomyth: Departure, Initiation and Return. This is a basic breakdown of the the Heroes Journey and how it shows up in the The Matrix, Braveheart and The Lord The Rings.

The Matrix
Call to Adventure: Neo gets the ‘call’ from Morpheus on the special delivery mobile phone sent to his office to save him from the Agents of the Matrix.
Refusal of Call: Neo climbs to the edge of a skyscraper ledge where he has to risk death to escape (cross the threshold) and decides he cannot.
First threshold: Neo follows the white Rabbit tattoo on the shoulder of a beautiful woman and ends up waking up out of his Matrix life of sleep.
Road of trials: Neo is interrogated by Agent Smith, trains as a warrior, is betrayed and goes to battle with The Matrix itself.
Ultimate ‘boon’: Neo becomes the ‘one’ and integrates into The Matrix, defeating it and his nemesis, Agent Smith.
Return: Neo returns, vowing to wake all others from their prison of sleep.

Call to Adventure: Wallace is visited by clan warriors and invited to join them in the defence of their land and freedom.
Refusal of Call: Refuses their offer choosing to build a home and find a wife.
First threshold: Wife is murdered by English warrior in cold blood.
Road of trials: Becomes a warrior. Gathers together an army. Begins battling English. Pushes them out. Betrayed by Robert The Bruce and is captured.
Ultimate ‘boon’: Rouses the Scottish people to fight for their freedom.
Return: The spirit of Wallace is brought back to Scotland after his execution and used to inspire a decisive victory and freedom for the Scottish people.

Lord of the Rings
Call to Adventure: The Ring is given to Frodo for safe keeping.
Refusal of Call: Frodo denies his destiny and tries to get Gandalf to take charge of the Ring. Frodo refuses at first to leave the Shire.
First Threshold: Discovering the Ring Wraiths are approaching, Frodo is forced to flee his homeland.
Road of Trials: Many a dangerous event on the long road through all three films. Gollum. Ring wraiths. Cave Trolls. Orcs. Boromir’s betrayal, many battles and all the while the carrying of the evil burden of the Ring.
Ultimate Boon: Reaching Mount Doom and destroying the Ring.
Return: Having saved Middle Earth but deeply scarred by the Ring’s power, Frodo goes with Bilbo Baggins to the Summerlands. Middle Earth and its people are returned to their former peace.

Caspar Walsh is the film editor for Resurgence. He is an author, journalist and wilderness teacher. His new novel Blood Road is available in paperback, January 6th 2011
Caspar was interviewed today on Mark Tully's programme,'Something Understood' on the theme of places of safety, BBC Radio4. The interview will be available on 'listen again' until 8th January: